a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Secret Integration (1964)
Thomas Pynchon
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

The title is a pun relating the operation from calculus (the definite integral of a function) to the controversial attempt to solve many of the problems of race relations in America (the integration of the schools). A summary of the plot can be found here, but they make no mention of the mathematical aspect. One character's interest in the definite integral is a running theme throughout the book and also the source of metaphors. For example, he notes that the vertical lines often drawn on the graph during integration to represent the Riemann sum appear to be like prison bars...prison bars which become infinitely close preventing any chance of escape.

This was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in December 1964 and can now be found in the collection Slow Learner.

Contributed by Will Macfarlane

"This is Pynchon's most successful short story, far outstripping in quality the published-as-a-novel "The Crying of Lot 49". The mathematical aspects of the story are small but pervasive -- Pynchon uses mathematical concepts as effective tools for metaphor throughout the story (and most of his other works). One of the better short stories in the world."

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to The Secret Integration
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Infinitely Near by Anthony Cristiano
  2. Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin
  3. Against the Odds by Martin Gardner
  4. Three Plates on the Table [Tres platos en la mesa] by José María Gironella
  5. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  6. The Limit of Delta Y Over Delta X by Richard Cumyn
  7. Final Exam by Robert Dawson
  8. iPhone SE by Weike Wang
  9. The Feeling of Power by Isaac Asimov
  10. The Maxwell Equations by Anatoly Dnieprov
Ratings for The Secret Integration:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1.75/5 (4 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.75/5 (4 votes)

MotifMath Education,
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)