TITLE: A Writer with a Fondness for Tech AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 21, 2017 2:42 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I've not read either of Helen DeWitt's novels, but this interview from 2011 makes her sound like a technophile. When struggling to write, she finds inspiration in her tools:
What is to be done?
Well, there are all sorts of technical problems to address. So I go into Illustrator and spend hours grappling with the pen tool. Or I open up the statistical graphics package R and start setting up plots. Or (purists will be appalled) I start playing around with charts in Excel.
... suddenly I discover a brilliant graphic solution to a problem I've been grappling with for years! How to display poker hands graphically in a way that sets a series of strong hands next to the slightly better hands that win.
Other times she feels the need for a prop, a lá Olivier:
I may have a vague idea about a character -- he is learning Japanese at an early age, say. But I don't know how to make this work formally, I don't know what to do with the narrative. I then buy some software that lets me input Japanese within my word-processing program. I start playing around, I come up with bits of Japanese. And suddenly I see that I can make visible the development of the character just by using a succession of kanji! I don't cut out text -- I have eliminated the need for 20 pages of text just by using this software.
Then she drops a hint about a work in progress, along with a familiar name:
Stolen Luck is a book about poker using Tuftean information design to give readers a feel for both the game and the mathematics.
Dewitt sounds like my kind of person. I wonder if I would like her novels. Maybe I'll try Lightning Rods first; it sounds like an easier read than The Last Samurai. -----