[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

GG: Hofstadter

If you haven't run across Douglas Hofstadter's book Godel, Escher, Bach,
you might enjoy it :).

This is probably the best book I ever read. It encompasses such diverse fields as music, art, abstract mathematics, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience... the list goes on and on.

Nor did he stop there. _Metamagical Themas_, _Le Ton beau de Marot_, and _Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies_ pick up threads he started in _GEB_.

In _Le Ton beau_ he did a Gouldian thing: he attempted to control the
precise layout of every page, down to every serif, no matter how many font
variations were on the page.  That is, his page turns are occasionally
motivic, and every microscopic piece of the structure might mean
something.  And his word games and tangents across multiple languages are

(Remember how Gould derived the notion of the structural divisions in
Beethoven's 4th concerto?...Schnabel's side breaks for the 78rpm set!  And,
we must not forget: Glenn Gould never heard or saw a CD.  The LP side
breaks in his work were sometimes an important part of the experience.)

Hofstadter did another Gouldian thing, also: the sheer weight of _Ton beau_
and _Fluid Concepts_ (in hardback) can be off-putting and discourage casual
reading.  It takes firm commitment by the end user to invest the time and
physical presence in his world.

How is that "Gouldian"?  I'm thinking of Gould's occasional tendency to
make some music too heavy and portentous, not leaving it free to breathe:
e.g., the Bach toccata 912 and the French Suites, and "La Valse" that
doesn't dance.  At least in Hofstadter's writing there is a graceful dance
in all that massive structure.

And *every* time I eat a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's, I think of
Hofstadter, as he mentioned them in a context of ritual.  Sort of like GG
and the arrowroots.

Brad Lehman