Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Edge of Forever

So, I was just telling you about reading Time Travel, by James Gleick, which mentioned Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott, published in 1884. Abbott was dealing with the fourth dimension, and our difficulty getting our heads around that new idea, by imagining a two-dimensional land where the inhabitants are trying to get their minds around the possibility of a third dimension. (Plus, it satirizes Victorian culture.) Abbott's narrator is a square named A. Square.

Flatland has come back to us in various ways, including via Futurama and Big Bang Theory on tv, and also in an episode of Carl Sagan's television series, Cosmos, "The Edge of Forever" episode. But it came back to me almost immediately--that is, in the next book I am reading, which is This One is Mine, by Maria Semple, which I had to read after reading Today Will Be Different (which I had to read after reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Yes, I am, evidently, addicted to reading.) Little did I know that all three of Semple's novels sort of connect, in a Random Coinciday kind of way. (But not so random, as she is a bestselling author, who also used to write for Mad About You and Arrested Development--favorite shows in our house!--and she knows what she's doing!)

Anyhoo, imagine my delight when, on page 70 of my paperback edition of This One is Mine, "An image came to Sally, something she remembered from childhood. It was from the Carl Sagan series Cosmos, something called Flatland. Flatland was this two-dimensional world where everything was flat, even the Flatlanders who lived there. They could only perceive left and right, front and back, but no above or below. One day, a potato flew over from another dimension--really, Carl Sagan had said it was a potato--and this potato looked down and said, 'Hello.'"

OK, Sally goes on to perceive love in an altogether new way, thanks to Flatland, and I went on to seek out Flatland and Cosmos from the library! Oddly, I could only find the audiobook of Flatland, so that's a fun and unusual experience. When the narrator says, "In Figure 1, etc." I know there must be illustrations, but I can rather easily imagine them. I have not come yet to the potato, nor to "The Edge of Forever," but I have seen a still from the series in which Carl Sagan is holding an apple over a two-dimensional gameboard-like depiction of what might be Flatland, so...a pomme if not a pomme de terre. (Oh, my origami brain!) If I ever get there, to the Edge of Forever, and back, I'll let you know. But, for now, my destination is not even Flatland but Cleveland, via televisonland, and the World Series. May the best team win!


Nancy Ruder said...

What if Flat Stanley was really Carl Sagan?

Kathleen said...

Ha! Exactly!