a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Villages (2004)
John Updike
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

The protagonist of this novel is Owen Mackenzie, a character who earned a degree in mathematics in the 1950's and went on to work with computers. His first lover, as well, was a mathematician. They have "mathematical conversations" such as

(quoted from Villages)

'But Owen dear,' Phyllis said, 'the antinomies - the paradoxes - undermine classical logic, but the way they have to be phrased brings us to symbolic logic, which brings in Boolean math and the Turing machine and algorithms.'

Even when Phyllis leaves the picture, she does so in a mathematical way:

(quoted from Villages)

God killed Phyllis, as a favor to him: from this blasphemous thought he seeks to shield himself with the fancy that Phyllis, the beautiful math major, had crossed herself out the way a redundant term is dropped from the denominator and the numerator of a complex fraction.

For those interested in computers, there are also many computer references peppered throughout the book. However, the primary focus remains, as always in Updike's writings, on the sex. Thanks to Peter Freyd for sending me a review of this book.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Villages
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  2. Problems by John Updike
  3. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  4. Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz by Irene Dische
  5. The Central Tendency by Daniel Kaysen
  6. Pascal's Wager by Nancy Rue
  7. Of Mystery There Is No End by Leonard Michaels
  8. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  9. Cryptology by Leonard Michaels
  10. Kavita Through Glass by Emily Ishem Raboteau
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MotifFemale Mathematicians, Romance,

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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)