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Do the Math: A Novel of the Inevitable Hardcover – April 7, 2008
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About the Author
On two occasions, at two different locations in crowded midtown Manhattan, Philip B. Persinger ran into a woman whom he had not seen in twenty-five years but thought of still. They are now married and live with their two children in New Jersey, a short walk from the Hudson River. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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This is what I would call a True Romance: sharp, witty, and filled with an irony only True Love can claim as its own. I can't reveal too much about the plot-line for fear of ruining the story, but we have some essential elements: the brilliant academic who has lost his self-esteem and his faith; the shrew of a wife who overcompensates for her handicaps by bashing the crap out of everyone around her; the innocent narrator caught in the middle who tries desperately NOT to put two and two together; and the fan club members -- headed by a Mrs. Slocum, fan-fic writer extraordinaire -- who are doing the wrong things for the right reason, even if they have no idea that their platform is a farce. The fact that the Fan club is petitioning for their favourite woman romance writer to be included in the literary curriculum at New York College, Poughkeepsie is hilarious considering that the author hasn't written her own books since the first one and that her ghost writer is a man. Even she declares rather adamantly that the genre isn't about Love, it's about romance and there is a script. With that notion firmly planted in his head, Teal is convinced he can discover the mathematical formula, so he sets off to log in time at the campus's computer while his wife opts for cutting and pasting from her backlist. Now this is 1978, so the computer takes up a huge basement room, and cutting and pasting takes scissors and tape. But they plod on, and Teal eventually proves his own premise, which he calls The Deferred Premise Principle [...] "You must have a premise by the end of the whole mess or it makes no sense at all." Of course he doesn't know he has literally proved it yet when he makes that statement.
Now I didn't "get" a lot of the math humour, but it really didn't matter or take away from the enjoyment of the story. I was told by the author that the "math" was 95% made up, so after hearing that, I didn't feel as if I was left out of an inside joke. As for the characters, aside from Warner, they are all just lovable victims of happenstance to some degree or another, so they all compliment and repel each other at the same time. Life is known for its irksome set of variables, and so the characters just roll with it, clumsily so, but they do. Real life -- true love -- is not ruled by convention, even if we would like it to be sometimes. That said, the story did not run roughshod over the romance genre. Sure it plays with the conventions of 1978 romance writing a bit, but it isn't extravagant in its absurdist view. Its premise is subtle, and the approach gently hints at the outcome throughout the story without coming off as predictable or overly exposed. There was no chop, not in the storyline, in the character development, or in the actual writing. The approach was minimalist, the humour was academically dry, and in some cases, our narrator is just witnessing a scene from afar, and so disconnected from the conversation, we have to make all the assumptions on our own. I really thought the technical use of distance was well-played and intriguing, as was the remarkably clean edit.
I suppose what I loved most about the book, besides its satirical look at the romance genre, was the mathematical juxtaposition we were presented with: The Predictability of Romance versus the Unpredictability and the Inevitability or rather The Significant Inconsequentiality of Love. That, to me, was the essence of the story. Happily ever after doesn't necessarily come easy, and it certainly doesn't come as expected. This story had real heart and soul, and while the ending may not have been Happily Ever After in the traditional fairytale sense of the phrase, it mirrored real life to perfection by showing that even if you get slightly derailed in life, there is always an opportunity to fix the mistakes and find happiness, even if the opportunity might seem inconsequential at first glance.
Told from the point of view of "Roger", an aspiring mathematician, the story revolves around William Teale, a once promising genius of Math who has seemed to have lost all will and motivation to continue his work on a complicated but important and ground breaking thesis. Married to world famous Romance Author Virginia Faye Warner, William has settled into an unlikely(think"Beauty and the Geek") but happy and comfortable marriage, and into his tedious existence of college Math professor. But things are getting a shake up or maybe even a wake up in William's world when after 25 years apart, a chance meeting with the love of his life renews his spirit for life.
Roger, his intern and confidant, is like a fly on the wall in the Warner-Teale household as he helps the professor search for his theory buried among the papers in their vast private library. He learns who is really responsible for the dozens of successful romance novels and what happens when the "ghost writer" is taken ill is the story within the story. Teale now romantically inclined, wants to help with the next novel the publisher and the public have been clamoring for. Teale's approach though is from the Mathematician's point of view. Figuring out the perfect formula for the next story is not the traditional boy meets girl scenarios for William, his is a thought process of theory and equations to boggle the mind. Will the results of his efforts work or is it just too complicated for Faye's fans? Is the story really his story of lost lost love, now found, and are we in for a happy ending? It is a good probability you will have a good time finding out.
Persinger's words flows wonderfully.There are substories that he skillfully brings full cirlce into the core story. The dialogue is snappy and very real. There are an array of supporting characters that will charm the socks of of you. A temperamental ghost writer, "Faye's" fan club of feisty older gals who you just don't want to mess with, and the group of math students who you can just picture walking around with their pencils and calculators sticking out of their shirt pockets. I have to admit though, there were times when I felt like a kindergartner walking in on a meeting of the high school Math club and got a little lost during the math discussions(but that is just me, I always kind of drifted off in the 3 years I had to take and retake Algebra). But honestly that is all part of the fun in this story that will have you smiling and maybe even laughing out loud.
So you won't find any scenes of intense passion or any of the usual suspects here. But a feel good and funny story about the story of romance - mathematically speaking of course! And by the way - the story of a chance meeting with the love of his life is a story the Author knows well! And chances are - you'll love it!
ADD this to your romance library and enjoy!...Laurie