Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Algebra (sort of) in a short story

 Tomorrow I head to Baltimore for the BRIDGES Math-Arts Conference.
Explore the conference program at this link.  Would love to see you there!
It is my occasional delight to learn of a new mathy poem in an email message from Francisco José Craveiro de Carvalho, a Portuguese mathematician who loves poetry and has translated many math-related poems to and from his native language -- a seeker and finder of such poems who shares them with me.  (See also 23 October 2010, 17 September 2013, and 24 December 2014.)  A recent message from this friend alerted me to "Problem," an algebra-like short story (?prose poem?) by prize-winning author Lydia Davis. Enjoy!

Problem     by Lydia Davis

Z is with Y, but living on money from Z. Y himself supports W, who lives with her child by V.  V wants to move to Chicago but his child lives with W in New York.  W cannot move because she is having a relationship with U, whose child also lives in New York, though with its mother, T.  T takes money from U, W takes money from Y for herself and from V for their child, and X takes money from Z.  X and Y have no children together.  V sees his child rarely but provides for it.  U lives with W’s child but does not provide for it. 

Lots of the VERY short stories by this acclaimed author are available online. (Use Google and enjoy!)  Francisco found this story here in the Huffington Post.  It is found in print in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis and it earlier appeared in the first of her four collections, Break It Down.


  1. Graph theory? Thanks, JoAnne!

    1. Yes, Francisco, that sounds like a good possibility. Wish you were attending BRIDGES.