a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Time Bends (The Students Tale) in The Rags of Time (2009)
Maureen Howard

The poetic ramblings of an aging author confined to her New York apartment, who presumably is Maureen Howard herself, include short stories about the ongoing lives of her characters, including the math professor Artie Freeman.

Freeman is a topologist married to an artist. The main plot of his story is his testimony in court on behalf of a childhood friend now accused of white collar crimes. But, behind that we see him doubting his own mathematical abilities and moping over the fact that his research connected to mathematical physics was "scooped" by a fellow at MIT.

I found the writing style off-putting, especially since Artie Freeman's story is delivered in first person (pp. 35-64) and I cannot quite imagine that he would sound like this:

(quoted from Time Bends (The Students Tale) in The Rags of Time)

That night I couldn't be near the extra dimensions that may, in a very long run, anoint me a professor. Don't be a stranger. Bert's look searching me out was desperate, but we were exactly that: strangers. He knew it, yet sent that woman, whatever part she played in his life, to ferret out my small problem. That Gina who seemed to know I was sulking in a corner of string theory appropriately called flop-transition, as though the tilted rubber ball of space named the failure of Artie Freeman.

To me this sounds more like a literary author trying to write something profound than the inner thoughts of an insecure math professor. In fact, many readers interpret Howard's apologies for his lack of success as a mathematician as representing her own thoughts about her career as a writer.

So, is this a short story or a novel? I'm really not sure. It is a novel about an author which includes some of her short stories in it. I should mention that Freeman's wife gets her own short story later in the book, and so he also gets mentioned there. Also, for some reason, the real mathematician Peter Lax gets mentioned (and quoted) on page 19. (I suppose he really is a neighbor of Maureen Howard, though I have not confirmed this.)

The Rags of Time is the fourth book in a series and the character of Artie Freeman appears in the earlier ones as well and his grandparents also appear as regular characters in the books. However, mathematics does not play as large a role in those earlier appearances and so I do not intend to give them their own entries in this database.

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Works Similar to Time Bends (The Students Tale) in The Rags of Time
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Arnold Proof by Jessica Francis Kane
  2. The Wild Numbers by Philibert Schogt
  3. Tigor (aka The Snowflake Constant) by Peter Stephan Jungk
  4. Self-Reference ENGINE by Toh EnJoe
  5. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  6. The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
  7. Continuums by Robert Carr
  8. A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved
  9. Miss Havilland by Gay Daly
  10. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
Ratings for Time Bends (The Students Tale) in The Rags of Time:
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:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems,
MediumNovels, Short Stories,

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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)