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Applied MathematicsPaul Groves
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Vol. 19 No. 2 · 23 January 1997
Poem

Applied Mathematics

Paul Groves

244 words

‘0.0133333. What does this mean?’ protests my meat-
packer uncle, slumped in his threadbare armchair. I advise him
to start again. He stabs the calculator’s Cancel with a coarse digit.
He has read that French starlet Tabatha Cash has made
150 pornographic movies in 2½ years. How many, he wonders,
was that a week? His first hurdle is finding the ½ button,
which isn’t there. He was crap at school, and at times like this
it shows. Having explained the decimal equivalent, I tell him
to convert the years to months for starters. Eventually he says
‘Thirty!’, his face brightening as if a torchbeam had hit it.
‘Fine,’ I say, ‘now change that to weeks.’ He taps in 30, then x,
then 4: ‘150 hard-core efforts in 120 weeks. Some going,’ he says,
a look of wonder informing his features, though whether it’s caused
by the girl’s phenomenal labours or his own at the pocket keyboard
is uncertain. I tell him he can refine this further
by keying 120 then x then 7 and dividing that by 150 to get
a more accurate reading. He does. The celluloid princess produced
one blue flick every 5.6 days. We consider rehearsals, whether
she worked with a gaffer or best boy, what the locations were like,
whether the outtakes repaid inspection, and if a voice-over was ever
really necessary. It is all speculation. Tabatha Cash keeps
her distance, her secrets, passing on only the lurid hints,
the seamy imaginings, and the barest of production statistics.

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Letters

Vol. 19 No. 4 · 20 February 1997

Whether or not Paul Groves (LRB, 23 January) was well-advised in preferring a career as a poet to that of a meat-packer, others may judge. Certainly he is no more dab a hand at maths than his uncle if he believes there are but 48 weeks in the year. ‘He was crap at school, and at times like this/it shows.’

Mack Schlefer
New York

send letters to

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London Review of Books
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London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

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