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Feb
20th
Wed
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The unread and the unreadable

“The librarian in Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities only scans titles and tables of contents: his library symbolises the impossibility of reading everything today. The proliferation of lists of novels that you must, allegedly, have perused in your lifetime, reflects this problem while compounding it. On a recent visit to a high street bookshop, I ogled a well-stacked display table devoted to “great” novels “you always meant to read”. We measure out our lives with unread books, as well as coffee spoons. (…)

The problem, as Kierkegaard observed, is that “more and more becomes possible” when “nothing becomes actual”. Literature was a blank canvas that increasingly dreamed of remaining blank. “The most beautiful and perfect book in the world,” according to Ulises Carrión, “is a book with only blank pages.” Such books had featured in eastern legends for centuries (echoed by the blank map in “The Hunting of the Snark" or the blank scroll in Kung Fu Panda), but they only really appeared on bookshelves in the 20th century. They come in the wake of Rimbaud's decision to stop writing, the silence of Lord Chandos; they are contemporaneous with the Dada suicides, Wittgenstein's coda to the Tractatus, the white paintings of Malevich and Rauschenberg, as well as John Cage's 4′33″. (…)

This very same faith prompts Borges to claim that “for a book to exist, it is sufficient that it be possible” and George Steiner to sense that “A book unwritten is more than a void.” (…) [T]he literary is what can never be taken as read.” “
Jan
11th
Wed
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Nicholas Carr on Books That Are Never Done Being Written

“Digital text is ushering in an era of perpetual revision and updating, for better and for worse. (…) What the historian Elizabeth Eisenstein calls “typographical fixity” served as a cultural preservative. It helped to protect original documents from corruption, providing a more solid foundation for the writing of history. It established a reliable record of knowledge, aiding the spread of science. It accelerated the standardization of everything from language to law. The preservative qualities of printed books, Ms. Eisenstein argues, may be the most important legacy of Gutenberg ’s invention.

Once digitized, a page of words loses its fixity. It can change every time it’s refreshed on a screen. (…) Movable text makes a lousy preservative. (…)

What will be lost, or at least diminished, is the sense of a book as a finished and complete object, a self-contained work of art.

Not long before he died, John Updike spoke eloquently of a book’s “edges,” the boundaries that give shape and integrity to a literary work and that for centuries have found their outward expression in the indelibility of printed pages. It’s those edges that give a book its solidity, allowing it to stand up to the vagaries of fashion and the erosions of time. And it’s those edges that seem fated to blur as the words of books go from being stamped permanently on sheets of paper to being rendered temporarily on flickering screens.” “
Nicholas Carr, American writer, Books That Are Never Done Being Written , WSJ.com, Dec 31, 2011.
Jan
5th
Thu
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“People sometimes act as though owning books you haven’t read constitutes a charade or pretense, but for me, there’s a lovely mystery and pregnancy about a book that hasn’t given itself over to you yet—sometimes I’m the most inspired by imagining what the contents of an unread book might be.” “
Jonathan Lethem, American novelist, essayist and short story writer, cited in Writers and Their Books: Inside Famous Authors’ Personal Libraries, The Atlantic, Dec 21, 2011  (Illustration)
Dec
30th
Fri
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There was a time in the ancient world - a very long time - in which the central cultural problem must have seemed an inexhaustible outpouring of books. Where to put them all? How to organize them on the groaning shelves? How to hold the profusion of knowledge in one’s head? The loss of this plenitude would have been virtually inconceivable to anyone living in its midst.

Then, not all at once but with the cumulative force of a mass extinction, the whole enterprise came to an end. What looked stable turned out to be fragile, and what had seemed for all time was only for the time being.
Stephen Greenblatt, literary critic, theorist and scholar, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
Sep
14th
Wed
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Boswell: But, Sir is it not somewhat singular that you should happen to have Cocker’s Arithmetic about you on your journey?

Dr. Johnson: Why, Sir if you are to have but one book with you upon a journey, let it be a book of science. When you read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you; but a book of science is inexhaustible.
James Boswell Scottish lawyer, author, biographer of Samuel Johnson, (1740-1795), cited in Lock Haven University
Aug
3rd
Wed
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My cousin Helen, who is in her 90s now, was in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. She and a bunch of the girls in the ghetto had to do sewing each day. And if you were found with a book, it was an automatic death penalty. She had gotten hold of a copy of Gone With the Wind, and she would take three or four hours out of her sleeping time each night to read. And then, during the hour or so when they were sewing the next day, she would tell them all the story. These girls were risking certain death for a story. And when she told me that story herself, it actually made what I do feel more important. Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It’s actually one of the things that you live and die for.
Neil Gaiman, English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films (tnx crmerry)
Jul
29th
Fri
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College: two hundred people reading same book. An obvious mistake. Two hundred people can read two hundred books.
John Cage, American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker (1912-1992), M: Writings 1967-1972 (tnx libraryland)
Jul
20th
Wed
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In the age of super-speed broadband, we need dead trees to have fully living minds.
Johann Hari, British journalist, How to survive the age of distraction, The Independent, 24 June 2011
Jul
3rd
Sun
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The book of the past reveals its individual experience uniquely. The book of the future reveals our collective experience uniquely.
Craig Mod, writer, designer, publisher and developer, Post-Artifact Books and Publishing, June 2011
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Roger Bacon held that three classes of substance were capable of magic: the herbal, the mineral, and the verbal. With their leaves of fiber, their inks of copperas and soot, and their words, books are an amalgam of the three.
Matthew Battles, writer, a book critic, and the cofounder of HiLobrow.com, Library: An Unquiet History, W. W. Norton & Company, 2004
Jun
23rd
Thu
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Kevin Kelly: ‘We are moving from the culture of the book to the culture of booking’
"Imagine a future where instead of lending someone a book, you lend them your bookmarks. Where your notes, annotations and references are synchronized across platforms and applications. Where your bookmarks belong to you, and a record of every book you read is saved and stored securely, no matter how or where you read it."

— James Bridle, who is developing Open Bookmarks

Viewing a book as a process rather than artifact. (…)

We are moving from the culture of the book to the culture of booking. Our focus is no longer on the book, the noun, but on booking, the verb — on that continuous process of thinking, writing, editing, writing, sharing, editing, screening, writing, screening, sharing, thinking, writing — and so on that incidentally throws off books. Books, even ebooks, are by-products of the booking process. (…)

Booking produces relationships. Booking is a process that connects readers, authors, characters, ideas, and stories into complex webs. There will be a million ways to weave these relationships.”

Kevin Kelly, writer, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, Post-Artifact Booking, The Technium, 19 June 2011
Feb
27th
Sun
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He had more books than I’ve ever seen in all my life - two libraries, two rooms loaded from floor to ceiling around all four walls and such books as the apocryphal something-or-other in ten volumes. He played Verdi Operas and pantomimed them in his pajamas with a great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He rolled his neck in spastic ecstasy. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life.
Jack Keroauc, On The Road, Viking Press, 1957, Chapter 4
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Ray Bradbury on writing

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. (…)

If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” “