a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
Thomas Pynchon
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for literati.

Contributed by Eduard Brattinga

In this novel "there's "mathematicians' graffiti" and a lot of musing on the Poisson-curve. See, for ex. page 140 in the Pengiun 20th century classics edition.

Contributed by Nick Carter

I was impressed with Pynchon's reference to mathematics (particularly statistics, in the beginning, w/ Ned Pointsman and Roger Mexico and calculus when talking about the guidance systems, brennschluss, and the rocket's path being calculable as an integration over time), which were not overbearing or forced, but rather enlightening, almost poetic. It's rare to find a major author of fiction who can write in a modality where mathematics is really a tool for understanding cause and effect. Without being elitist, I think that Pynchon's fluent use of math is one reason that many students of literature find this book is hard to approach; if the classic Victorian novel frames the world as a matrix of social interactions reduceable to sometimes hidden motivations, Gravity's Rainbow at times frames the world as a set of physical interactions reduceable to mathematical relationships. Math in this book is pervasive, and a reader of the work who is familiar with integral calculus will be able to pick up on analogies that I can easily see being lost on the uninitiate.

Contributed by michael k

May I just add, the integral of one over cabin(d)cabin = log(cabin)+c = houseboat, a marvelous pun that illustrates perfectly Pynchon's use of mathematics in his fiction, not centrally but as another way of getting toward a greater idea or theme.

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Works Similar to Gravity's Rainbow
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  2. The Weight of Numbers by Simon Ings
  3. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  4. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  5. Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino
  6. The Wild Numbers by Philibert Schogt
  7. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  8. Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, The Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
  9. The Birds by Aristophanes
  10. Account Unsettled [Crime Impuni] by Georges Simenon
Ratings for Gravity's Rainbow:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3.12/5 (9 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.5/5 (10 votes)


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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)