How I read Dan Hofstadter's book by accident

"Goldberg's Angel"

Here's a post to a mailing list I made in 1998 (the "Join the crew" virus hoax was circulating at the time) ...

Subject: JOIN THE CREW!!
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Date: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 20:57:15

See!  The timid have already deleted this message, and missed the 
opportunity of a lifetime!!

Have you ever thought how useful an extra $10, $100, $1000, or in 
fact $10^n for any integral value of n would be?  Now you can 
sieze [sic] the chance of some easy money, by joining me as joint 
ghostwriter of my next project, a torrid sex-romp, entitled "The 
Big Bang", which will go out under my new nom-de-plume, Steven J. 
Dawkins.  Haven't finalized the publisher yet, but with this title 
and author, we can't lose.

No previous experience (of writing) required, and in fact an 
ability to stick to elementary grammatical forms would probably 
be an advantage.  For your screen test, contact Gloria Candlewick 
at Rentamattress (1) 123-555-6969 without delay.


Oh, what brought this on?  Well, I've got this book in my 
reading-pending pile, "Goldberg's Angel".  The Daedalus catalog 
said "Now Dan Hofstadter has written a novel" so given that I 
thought this was an author who's written some interesting stuff,  
("Goldberg" sort of rang a bell too) and it was cheap of course, 
I bought it.  When it arrived, I wondered slightly why I would be 
reading about the antiquities trade, then thought no more about it.  
With an ever-so-slightly sickening feeling the other day it finally 
dawned on me that I had conflated Dan Dennett and Douglas 
Hofstadter.  I'm not sure whether the "Goldberg" connection 
really was the variations, or a dim confusion with Goldbach and 

Goldbach's conjecture is one of the many results in number theory 
which are immensely easy to state and understand, and on which 
almost no progress at all has been made towards a proof.
Here it is:

  Every even number greater than 2 is the sum of two primes.

Remember "prime" excludes 1, so the demonstration of plausibility 
4=2+2, 6=3+3, 8=3+5, 10=3+7, 12=5+7, 14=7+7, 16=3+13, ...


A while later, after reading the book, I made some reference to it in passing, and responded when someone asked me...

> What's ["Goldberg's Angel"]?

A book. About a lady Peg Goldberg from er somewhere in America who 
went to Amsterdam, and largely on a whim purchased some mosaics from 
a group of rip-off artists for 1 million dollars she'd borrowed from 
the bank to buy a fake Modigliani.  Rather predictable story, I 
thought (the Cyprus government reclaimed them as they were stolen), 
but the author seemed surprised that the world of shady art dealing 
was a murky one.

Indeed, both Goldberg the victim and Hofstadter the writer appeared to me to be extraordinarily naive about such things, not to mention the bank in Indiana somewhere which had actually agreed to lend her $3 million. Even after reading it, I couldn't be sure whether this was supposed to be fact or fiction (or was Daedalus' "novel" just a joke?), but it was certainly a readable yarn.

The books

Dan Hofstadter: "Goldberg's Angel, an adventure in the antiquities trade" More details

Douglas R. Hofstadter: "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" (The Conversation at the end of Chapter 12 is itself a conflation of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the Goldbach conjecture) More details

Douglas Hofstader & Daniel Dennett: "The Mind's I, Fantasies and reflections on self and soul" More details

The other authors of course are: Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking.

This little episode should at least warn you of the dangers of keyword searching.