In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The House of York

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson


Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

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

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.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


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

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences