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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
  • ZH Zankel Hall
  • SA/PS Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
  • REW Resnick Education Wing
  • WRH Weill Recital Hall

The Dot and the Line: A Quirky Vintage Love Story in Lower Mathematics

On Sunday, April 10, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s performs two new works for children: Caroline Shaw examines the nature of love and friendship with the world premiere of her work The Mountain That Loved a Bird, based on the 1985 children’s book by Alice McLerran, and Robert Xavier Rodriguez brings to life Norton Juster’s classic 1963 book, The Dot and the Line.

Below, read an abridged article by Maria Popova, originally posted on Brain Pickings, including Juster’s clever illustrations and the Oscar-winning short film that the book inspired, by famed animator Chuck Jones. View the full story here.

In 1963, two years after he penned his timeless classic The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster wrote and illustrated The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics—the quirky and infinitely wonderful love story that unfolds in a one-dimensional universe called Lineland where women are dots and men are lines; a hopeful straight line falls hopelessly in love with a dot out of his league, who only has eyes for a sleazy squiggle, and sets about wooing her. Inspired by the Victorian novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, it’s an endearing and witty fable of persistence and passion, and a creative masterwork at the intersection of mathematics, philosophy, and graphic design.

To woo the dot, the line decides to master the myriad shapes capable of expressing his full potential.

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For months he practiced in secret. Soon he was making squares and triangles, hexagons, parallelograms, rhomboids, polyhedrons, trapezoids, parallelepipeds, decagons, tetragrams and an infinite number of other shapes so complex that he had to letter his sides and angles to keep his place.

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Before long he had learned to carefully control ellipses, circles and complex curves and to express himself in any shape he wished — “You name it, I’ll play it.”

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So he takes the dot out one evening and metamorphoses into a dizzying array of shapes to charm her with his refined versatility.

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Juster brings the story to a modern fairy-tale ending, where the dot and the line live “if not happily ever after, at least reasonably so,” and ends with a charming pun for the mathematically tickled:

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MORAL: The vector belongs to the spoils.

In 1965, the book was adapted into an equally charming, Oscar-winning short film by Chuck Jones:


—Maria Popova

Orchestra of St. Luke's
Sunday, April 10 at 3 PM
Carnegie Hall Family Concert:
Orchestra of St. Luke's

Two new works for children and their families will be performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. In the spirit of Peter and the Wolf and other beloved stories told through music, critically acclaimed composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s whimsical orchestral style brings the classic story The Dot and the Line to life. Caroline Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and member of the Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, also displays her musical storytelling skills in The Mountain That Loved a Bird, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its 125th anniversary.