Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity In an inspired bit of stunt casting, the creators of "Great Discoveries" (a new series in which name-brand authors present histories of scientific breakthroughs) have… Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity In an inspired bit of stunt casting, the creators of "Great Discoveries" (a new series in which name-brand authors present histories of scientific breakthroughs) have… Nonfiction
Book Review

Everything And More (Fall 2003)

EW's GRADE
B+

Details Writer: David Foster Wallace; Genre: Nonfiction

In an inspired bit of stunt casting, the creators of ''Great Discoveries'' (a new series in which name-brand authors present histories of scientific breakthroughs) have paired the ''Infinite Jest'' novelist with Georg Cantor, the inventor of transfinite math. Wallace, who professes to have a ''medium-strong amateur interest in math and formal systems,'' lays everything out clearly -- the theories, axioms, proofs, ancient paradoxes of infinity. He even tells you which bits are skippable by, alternately, the math savvy and the calculus-impaired. It's common to say that gripping books built of fact read like novels; wonderfully, this one doesn't: Wallace's straightforward engagement with ultimate abstractions and unambiguous truths offers a heady pleasure distinct from that of fiction.

Originally posted Oct 10, 2003 Published in issue #732 Oct 10, 2003 Order article reprints