EPS Review #104 - Mobius Dick

Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey, Picador 2004, 312pp.

I am not sure how I came across this one. Maybe it was by browsing Amazon, or a blog, though I see on Amazon the only review is the Guardian's "It is perhaps the only novel about quantum mechanics you could imagine reading while lying on a beach." The novel is unabashedly intellectual, which makes for a nice change. The first chapter starts with a text message: "Call me: H". Ha ha. I am sure there are slyer references that I missed. The first chapter also has a physicist attending a literature lecture over lunch, and his acid thoughts on literary "analysis" of what he sees as pure coincidence are funny...and ultimately relevant to the plot, which is about what happens if scientists set up a doomsday experiment that leads to uncollapsible wave-functions. In other words: what is it like to be Schrödinger's cat? Schrödinger himself figures largely in the novel, as do Thomas Mann (as somebody else) and other literary and musical and scientific figures. There was even a scientific point that I had not heard before: the fact that electrons change energy levels instantaneously (p. 209). A character argues that this implies that the electron somehow "knows in advance" where it is going. There is also a thread about cycloids: that the Pequod had cycloidal try-pots, and that the curve is the solution to the tautochrone/brachistochrone problems, though Crumey misses out on those savory words. The other day I was musing about cycloids to the children as we sat at the bus-stop watching the Range Rovers drive by - another example of synchronicity for the novel's philosophers.

If I have a complaint it is that the pleasures of the novel are in these details, and I do not care hugely about the protagonist-waveform. But it is a quick read. The book mentions Tomcat Murr a lot, which may also be worth reading.

Neil wrote: I have read this and thought it was crap; ok to know a bit about physics, but it helps to write a novel if you can write.

Paul wrote: I enjoyed Gilligan's Wake heartily. I think you would also!