notgettingenough 's Reviews > Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter
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Jun 04, 2010

bookshelves: science-sort-of, haven-t-read-but




from Randall Munroe. Mouseover says: 'This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke.'

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I know, I know, I know. I'm just kidding myself. I'm as likely to read this as a book on string theory. (Please don't. Please don't tell me I have read a book on string theory, I'm trying to forget the whole sordid story.) But. I hope you like this.

A friend of mine established The Harvester Press in the 1970s. He did it on a wing and a prayer, he was a young teaching academic who couldn't find in print the old literary books he wanted to use as texts and so he set about publishing them. He was probably as surprised as anybody when the idea quickly became viable. He put together a list of books, sold them as a subscription to libraries and away he went. He wasn't an academic any more, he was a proper publisher with a strong reputation for intellectually high end output.

At some point he got sent a completely insane looking ms, ridiculously long, bits of paper stuck on bits of paper, all these pictures which hadn't any copyright permission, and as for the title...well, who was going to buy a book called that....he sent it back with a polite letter.

Some years later he was in NY lunching with the boss of Basic Books, a US academic publisher. He wanted to publish this strange ms. he'd been given. As he was describing it, John interrupted with 'Godel, Escher, Bach I presume?' Evidently Hofstadter had gotten lucky and had on loan a very early word processor. The whole thing was no longer the shambles it once was. Basic Books was keen.

John got talked into taking some thousands of copies. This turned out well for him, but. What he had lost. Ouch. Godel, Escher, Bach in English and in translation would have made him many millions. I won't say he cried about it, but he did ask for a discount on the books he was buying. After such a sad tale it was impossible to say no.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W This is one of those books that many people rave about. I've always been much too intimidated to try it.


notgettingenough Eric_W wrote: "This is one of those books that many people rave about. I've always been much too intimidated to try it."

Oh. Me too. Even if practically everybody in the world ever has had a go at it.


message 3: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W notgettingenough wrote: "Eric_W wrote: "This is one of those books that many people rave about. I've always been much too intimidated to try it."

Oh. Me too. Even if practically everybody in the world ever has had a go a..."


My brother-in-law read it several years ago and loved it. But then again he solved the Rubrik's Cube by writing an algebraic -- or something -- formula. Geez.


message 4: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I read this a long while ago and it wasn't so bad! Then again my brain was a lot younger and spryer then. I think I pretty much skipped every single equation, tho. But the dialogues are fun.


message 5: by notgettingenough (last edited Jun 05, 2010 11:47AM) (new) - added it

notgettingenough Eric_W wrote: "My brother-in-law read it several years ago and loved it. But then again he solved the Rubrik's Cube by writing an algebraic -- or something -- formula. Geez."

I'm thinking if you wanted to get a guy to solve Rubick's cube really quickly this might be the way:



Thanks, Randall. Perfect as usual.


message 6: by Eric_W (new)

Eric_W notgettingenough wrote: "Eric_W wrote: "My brother-in-law read it several years ago and loved it. But then again he solved the Rubrik's Cube by writing an algebraic -- or something -- formula. Geez."

I'm thinking if you w..."


Only if the guy has no imagination whatsoever. :)


message 7: by notgettingenough (last edited Jun 05, 2010 01:46PM) (new) - added it

notgettingenough Eric_W wrote: "Only if the guy has no imagination whatsoever. :)"

You are a boy, I will take your word for it.


message 8: by Sicarius (new)

Sicarius Noctis Obligato... oh, damn. You already posted it.


message 9: by Sorento62 (new) - added it

Sorento62 Any review with an xkcd strip has got to be good. Great story about your publisher friend too. I haven't read GEB either.


notgettingenough Sorento62 wrote: "Any review with an xkcd strip has got to be good. Great story about your publisher friend too. I haven't read GEB either."

John's the best story teller. And he does a great rendition of Let Me Die a Youngman's Death, I discovered another time.


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