Monday, September 26, 2011
As a new-bee first semester University of New Mexico student, 17 years old and terrified of Calculus I and the thick 1000 paged text book, I watched in trepidation as this tall, long haired, blue jeaned, leather booted professor sauntered into the classroom. This was a time where calculators were most likely pencils or slide rules, Mitchell Hall (one of the classroom buildings) wasn't wired and punch cards were used to communicate with computers. I watched, as he slowly paced cat like, from one side of the room to the other, occasionally licking his lips, obviously in deep thought (one could only hope it wasn't because he was hungry for Freshmen).
Picking up a piece of chalk, we all watched in anticipation of a complex formula, or convoluted Mathematical idea that would cause us to rush to the registrars afterwards to find a new section, or perhaps change our major (what good is engineering anyway?). Turning to face us before writing, he most seriously stated "This is a very important book that everyone here should read". Our hearts expired, please not another book we thought. Back to the board he wrote, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." Smiling, we knew this would be an interesting math class, and he did not disappoint us.
I have to confess, I haven't read that book, and he still passed me onto Calculus II. But, what I did read was his 2005 self published book, "The Golden Years of Jess Martin". I loved it, but then I always liked listening to Jeff talk, and his voice in the book is the same as his voice in person.
I read this book in 2008, so I will not review this from my memory. Instead, I will copy the review I wrote back in 2008 from Amazon. However, separate from that review, I recall that it got really wild and crazy, and I've always wondered if the fictional blowing up of the humanities building (that is the building where the Math department used to live) had a deeper meaning. The end of the book didn't hold together as well for me as the first half, though the whole book was really fun to read.
This would not make a good book club discussion book, but is a dirtier, lighter "escape from reality" book to read.
So, here is the Amazon review (dang it, the Amazon criminals won't let me copy and paste it, so here is a retype):
This was an extremely entertaining book, fast paced, unpredictable, with great characters. The characterization of Jess and the people he deals with was realistic; written by an author who understands people and their motivations. You will even find yourself having sympathy for a double crossing hooker!
This was similar to Breaking Bad, a new cable series, but where the chemistry teacher (turned bad) uses chemicals to solve his drug business complications, Jess uses mathematical logic that has tastes of higher level thinking to conquer the messes that go hand in hand with pot trafficking.
I found the settings of a prison in CA, the bar and society in Southern NM near the Mexican border well described and interesting. I only wish Jess could have retained some of his innocence, as I really liked the character who was a newbie, but after enough time in the business, it just wasn't possible.
I think the best thing about this book was that I couldn't predict what was going to happen next. I am hoping for a sequel.