Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty

Vikram Chandra. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-55597-685-9
Novelist Chandra (Sacred Games) explores the connections between the worlds of computer programming and writing, beginning with the fact that “[b]oth writers and programmers struggle with language.” In a short span, the book offers much material to consider, leaping from a history of computer programming and a primer on logic gates and how these programs work, to a personal of Chandra’s writing life, to some serious philosophical inquiry into how the term “beauty” might be applied to programming. The latter thread draws mainly on the rasa-dhvani theory of aesthetic analysis (from Indian philosophers Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta), and although the ideas presented are sometimes challenging, Chandra provides more than sufficient intellectual guidance. Chandra’s book calls for a fuller appreciation of the programming world, not only because of the exponentially growing roles software plays in our lives, but also because of the actual work programmers do; in fact, he says of comparisons between programming and other disciplines, “When programmers say what they do is just like what writers do, or gardeners, or painters, the error is that they aren’t claiming enough, the fault is that they are being too humble.” Chandra’s melodic prose further adds to the contingency of his ambitious ideas. This book is truly a relic of today’s day and age. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/26/2014
Release date: 09/02/2014
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