Three Books

I asked for (and received) a couple of books for last Xmas: When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, and The Rigor of Angels by William Egginton. The first is a wonderful collection (sometimes interwoven) about the weird and wonderful (but weird) world of of physicists, mathematicians and chemists as they flirt with madness trying to come to terms with things like the would-you-believe basics of quantum theory. The latter is about the intersection of three great minds — philosopher Immanuel Kant, physicist Werner Heisenberg, and author Jorge Luis Borges — and how their shared interests in the struggle to understand how it is that we can’t always comprehend certain aspects of the world — were informed. I should mention that I received a third book at Xmas, from my partner, who thought I would like a collection of short fiction and essays from…Jorge Luis Borges.

Let’s just say that it’s been an intense ride, twisting my mind not only around the paradoxical ideas that quantum theory suggests, but also some strong narration and themes that rise from well-drawn portraits, the intimate (and wonderfully weird) lives of otherwise brilliant people.

Those first two books, by Labatut and Egginton, are very well done and I highly recommend them, by the way.

Speaking of Borges, I am truly amazed sometimes at his ability to distill entire universes with such economy; some of his work left me flabbergasted and dizzy. Some of it can also be front-loaded with a lot of geographical or historical weight and so it’s not exactly “diving in” literature; it’s a little like going to the gym, to be honest. But boy, the rewards.