James Gleick in The New York Times:
For the last half-century we’ve had a popular notion that our intellectual culture is sundered in two — the literary and the scientific. “The two cultures” is the bumper-sticker phrase for this view. It dates back to a hugely influential 1959 lecture, also published in book form that year, by C. P. Snow — “a moderately able research chemist who had become a successful novelist,” in the historian Lisa Jardine’s not very adulatory description. According to Snow, on one side were the humanists, on the other the scientists, and between them lay a shameful “gulf of mutual incomprehension.” Which side are you on? Snow offered a litmus test: If you can’t describe the second law of thermodynamics, you’re just as illiterate as any boffin who can’t quote Shakespeare. In the 21st century, the two cultures are still with us, but the fault lines have shifted. Plenty of people can talk about thermodynamics and Shakespeare with equal facility; for that matter, no one has ever explained the second law better than Tom Stoppard in “Arcadia” (“You cannot stir things apart”). You’re probably comfortable with scientific expressions like “litmus test.” The question now is, can you explain a hash table? A linked list? A bubble sort? Maybe you can write — but can you code?
Vikram Chandra is a wonderful novelist and apparently knows his way around an algorithm, too. His new book is an unexpected tour de force, different from anything he has done before. It has the oddly off-putting title “Geek Sublime,” which disguises its ambition: to look deeply, and with great subtlety, into the connections and tensions between the worlds — the cultures — of technology and art. The book becomes an exquisite meditation on aesthetics, and meanwhile it is also part memoir, the story of a young man finding his way from India to the West and back, and from literature to programming and back.