for giving The Mathematician’s Shiva a sweet shout out in Washington Jewish Week. I’m glad I gave him some summer reading joy. His review:
“I took a week off in June and actually did some rare fiction reading entirely for pleasure. One novel that is about to be published in paperback is The Mathematician’s Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer. As the title suggests, it’s a very Jewish story. An overflow crowd of elite mathematicians descends on Madison, Wis., to sit shiva for the finest female mathematician of her day. There is a lot of vodka, Jewish cooking, some family dysfunction repaired, some lechery, and a team project to solve a famous math problem. The characters are mostly postwar emigres from Communist Poland and Russia, so the generational setting is refreshingly different, more recent than in the novels of Philip Roth or the stories of I.B. Singer. Also, Rojstaczer is a retired Duke geophysicist who manages to make mathematics just accessible enough to readers of limited numeracy. It’s a fun read.”
are available through Penguins’ First To Read below.
can be found here. He likes it. A big hurdle with writing this book was that the cultures I was examining – Russian, Polish, math, deeply religious – were all at least a little bit of a stretch for me. I haven’t heard Russian or Polish commonly spoken since I was about five. I know some fairly advanced math and sat in on graduate level classes in mathematical physics, but I wouldn’t at all call myself a mathematician. I haven’t spent time in an Orthodox synagogue or in Torah study since I was fourteen.
My goal was to try to be authentic enough that someone well versed with any of these cultures would find the book enjoyable. There would be small glitches, no doubt, because the task of getting every detail right, even with fact checking by others better versed in these cultures, would be impossible. But I was obsessed with rooting out as many as I could, partly because I’ve thrown American books against the wall when cultural glitches (not just with facts, but with mood and attitude) have been simply too big and annoying for someone in the know, and partly out of personal pride.
I’ve heard from mathematicians who like TMS. I’ve heard from rabbis who like TMS. And now I’ve heard from one Russian. It feels good, let me tell you, to know that all the dull but necessary work to get the emotional mood and details as authentic as possible seems to have paid off. I can’t wait for the book to come out in six weeks.
Canadians can sign up for a giveaway (looks like they’re retail copies) of The Mathematician’s Shiva on Goodreads. 10 copies available. Maybe I’ll get up to TO and give a reading (fingers crossed).
Sign up is here.