The Frontal Cortex

Manil Suri

I really enjoyed The Death of Vishnu when it came out several years ago. It was a Calvinoesque exploration of a single Bombay apartment dwelling, as refracted through the prism of a dying peasant. But I had no idea that the author, Manil Suri, was actually an academic mathematician:

Q. ARE THERE AREAS WHERE MATH AND WRITING CONVERGE?

A. Actually, there are a few. If you’re writing and plotting the path of your characters, you have to consider the different directions they might go. “If I move something there, what will happen with this other thing?” Or, “How will the characters interact, if they do this or that?”

In mathematics, in place of characters, you have variables or unknowns. If I’m trying to plot a theorem, I try to imagine these variables interacting with each other. The boundary of their interaction is the theorem.

Comments

  1. #1 Christian Sinclair
    June 18, 2008

    Thanks for posting about this book. I had never heard of it, and when I saw it mentioned here and recently reviewed in this week’s JAMA it really caught my attention as it is a good book for my field, palliative medicine.

    I enjoy your blog very much and I would be interested to here a neuroscientist’s view on what is happening in the brain of a dying person.

    There is a whole lot of speculation but very little science there. Can people hear until the time of death? What are they thinking about in the last few often days of near comatose states? Do medications make any major impact on cognition in a minimally responsive patient? Why is delirium such a difficult symptom to treat near the end of life?

    If any of these questions pique your interest, I would be up for collaborating or brainstorming, so to speak.