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Oh, It’s Tuesday: FLATLAND by Edwin A. Abbot [Book 3 of 2010]

My book for last week got read a few days late. Please forgive. But here are my thoughts on FLATLAND by Edwin A. Abbot.

flatland-a-romance-of-many-dimensionsWhy I Decided To Read It: A couple of weeks ago, this book was mentioned in passing on my favorite sitcom, Big Bang Theory, and I said, “What’s Flatland?” and my husband said, “You haven’t read FLATLAND???” Then he stomped over to our bookshelf and threw it down onto the coffee table. He didn’t say that he wouldn’t have married me if he had known I had yet to read this sci-fi classic, but it was implied by his tone of voice when he said, “You really want to read this.”

What’s It About: It’s about one A. Square, a professor who lives among Circles (spiritual leaders and Statesmen), Hexagons/Pentagons (The Rich), Squares (Academics), and Triangles (Soldiers and the Working Class) in a two dimensional world. So imagine his surprise when a sphere from Spaceland pays him a visit.

What Makes It Different: First of all it was written in 1884. So in reading it, you see a lot of old ideas [heavy allusion, metaphysics], but you get a feeling that everybody else who has written such things, read this first. I’ll bet you $2 Kurt Vonnegut read this before writing Slaughterhouse Five.

What I Loved: This book blends science and religion together in a way that I can wholly swallow. And there was a certain thrill that I had while reading it, the feeling that oh yes, this is a dangerous book. Also, it’s a neat little primer for the concept of dimensions. Let me tell you, FLATLAND definitely has made my Top 20 Best Books of all time list, and I will make sure that my children and grandchildren read it. I’m just bummed that it took me 33 years and a Big Bang Theory reference to find it. I’m still trying to figure out how I got this far without ever hearing about it.

What I Didn’t Like: This book is only 90 pages, but it took me three days to get through the first 25. It’s dense. More Thomas Paine than Jonathan Swift until the main character starts having visions.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Seriously show don’t tell. This book is at its worse when it’s just telling us fact after fact about Flatland and at its best when it gives us diagrams to illustrate its points and recounts historical events, so that we understand the danger of new ideas.

Have purpose. The gag of this book is that the narrator is explaining his society and his story to the inhabitants of Spaceland, who can only visit once every 1000 years. Everything hung on that, and it allowed the writer to use quick and concise language. It also made me as a reader feel like the novel was going some place and on a clear path, which definitely makes it stand out from other Victorian novels.

Just a bookful of allusion makes the satire go down. I feel this device has been sorely and clumsily abused over the years, but FLATLAND reminded me of how useful it could be when you want to present novel and dangerous ideas.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Scientists, Engineers, Sci-Fi Writers, Clergy members, Malcolm Gladwell fans, and anyone who likes BIG IDEAS

TEN PEOPLE WHO MIGHT LIKE THIS: Josh G, Brian V, Ryan D, Liz C, Amy B, Ben J, Kelly L, Jeff B, Carlos A, Lyn G,

Click on the pic to buy the book (it’s only $2!).