Al Bità's Reviews > Perfect Figures: The Lore of Numbers and How We Learned to Count

Perfect Figures by Bunny Crumpacker
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's review
Oct 19, 2011

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This is an unusual book.

On the one hand it sets out to explain the basic counting numbers (there are chapters on 1–9, zero, 10—12, 100, 1000, 1000000, and googol) but really it seems to be more about the use of the word(s) for the numbers; the lore associated with them; the superstitions about some of them; a little about their mystery. On the other hand it is also a primer in the role of numbers in developing the art of counting; and also includes some basic aspects of linguistics (e.g. different languages and their use of their words for certain numbers), and how we use them in our ordinary every-day conversations and writings. And it further includes a smattering of more extensive mathematics, religious connotations (mostly from the Pythagoreans, but not exclusively so); etc.

The author also has a tendency to be 'cutesy' about numbers, almost as if these numbers were real things, with feelings, and powers, etc. speaking about these aspects as if addressing a kindergarten class… It is almost as if this were simply a literary accumulation of just about every 'fact' about numbers and collating them more or less roughly in accordance with the chapters mentioned above.

The book also contains quite a number of quotations containing numbers scattered throughout in separate boxes, more or less tenuously linked with the number being dealt with in the particular chatters in which they appear. My favourite (found in the chapter on number eleven) is Groucho Marx (as Rufus T Firefly) in the 1933 film 'Duck Soup': "Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot. I implore you: send him back to his father and brothers, who are waiting for him with open arms in the penitentiary. I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth."

There is much that is fun and interesting here, and in general I enjoyed the read, but at the same time it contains much that would be irritating to others. It both contains lots of information and yet lacks much as well. It is not obvious who the intended readership is…
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message 1: by Wayne (new)

Wayne I thought it was OBVIOUS!!!!!
Any authorship attributed to the NOTORIOUS Bunny Crumpacker is sure to be only intended to take the Mickey out of you!!!!
You have been TOOK.
Otherwise you have probably been entertained in the process as we all will be by your review.
Stick to Marx.

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