The nonfiction debut from the author of the international bestseller Sacred Games about the surprising overlap between writing and computer coding
Vikram Chandra has been a computer programmer for almost as long as he has been a novelist. In this extraordinary new book, his first work of nonfiction, he searches for the connections between the worlds of art and technology. Coders are obsessed with elegance and style, just as writers are, but do the words mean the same thing to both? Can we ascribe beauty to the craft of writing code?
Exploring such varied topics as logic gates and literary modernism, the machismo of tech geeks, the omnipresence of an "Indian Mafia" in Silicon Valley, and the writings of the eleventh-century Kashmiri thinker Abhinavagupta, Geek Sublime is both an idiosyncratic history of coding and a fascinating meditation on the writer's art. Part literary essay, part technology story, and part memoir, it is an engrossing, original, and heady book of sweeping ideas.
Novelist Chandra (Sacred Games) explores the connections between the worlds of computer programming and writing, beginning with the fact that "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.