Mathematical Fiction (Part 4)
This last entry in my fourpart review of mathematical literature involves the two classics by Clifton Fadiman. First, Fantasia Mathematica (originally issued in 1958) has always been my favorite, and the standard against which I measure all other newcomers. Its sequel, The Mathematical Magpie (originally issued in 1962) is also good, but quite as good. Luckily, both books are now back in print...but unfortunately have not been updated with new commentary.
To gain a taste of Fantasia Mathematica, consider its section headings and names of some of its stories:
 Odd Numbers
 Pythagoras and the Psychoanalyst
 Mother and the Decimal Point
 Imaginaries
 And he Built a Crooked House
 NoSided Professor
 The Island of Five Colors
 A Subway Named Möbius

 The Mathematical Voodoo
 Fractions
 Euclid and the Bright Boy
 The Symbolic Logic of Murder
As to The Mathgematical Magpie, its section headings alone are delightful..consider them and some sample names of stories:
 A Set of Imaginaries
 Paul Bunyan and the Conveyor Belt
 The Hermaneutical Doughnut
 Comic Sections
 A, B, and C: The Human Element in Mathematics
 The Mathematician's Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt
 Irregular Figures
 Euclid and the Bright Boy
 The Symboliv Logic of Murder
 Simple Harmonic Motions
 Dividends and Remainders (two songs)
 A Positive Remainder (poems, cartoons, etc.)
Not everyone views these classics in the same positive light. For example, one reviewer wrote: "the stories ...seem naive and dated. Many of the stories have little literary merit of their own, and the mathematical topics tend to be Möbius bands and four dimensional cubes, topics that now seem somewhat passé."
I do not know about you and your students, but I also must be passé. That is, I still enjoy reading and exploring Möbius bands and four dimensional cubes....and recommend these classics by Clifton fadiman highly!
