Sertillanges has this quote "there are many books but only a few are necessary." How do you know which ones are the necessary ones? Do you have to read all of the many in order to determine the good ones? how do you trust to say these are the good ones? It is implied that there is limitation. because if you trust recommendations then you are going to read some books but not others and may miss the essential text(s). This missing of texts will happen anyway but reading based only on recommendations is beneficial for the ability to converse about the text since we approach and depart from texts with different results and thoughts. Reading based on recommendation also may cause your thinking to flow into channels that are being carved by others rather than by yourself. But it is, can be, continues to be hard work to carve out book choices.
To return to Sertillanges' quote what are the few necessary for?
I think there's two gigantic sections into which you can fit all works, mythical narrative and pedagogical narrative. Mythical narrative presents a story, true or not, that varies from Patterson's works to more sophisticated ficiton (Wallace, Lahiri, Barthelme, etc.)that seem to try to help/confuddle the reader with the world while also entertaining. Some only entertain and some only confuddle but the rewarding ones seem to do both. The second type of writing is to teach, either in the manner of The Republic or in the manner of The Arcades Project, both writers exploring and voicing their experiences and understanding of their world. In Real Presences Steiner suggests a society where there are no critics and in response to art do not write commentary but would respond with their own texts/works of art as example of how good they thought the artwork encountered was. This coincides with an idea that be-bopped through my head recently. My original thought was what if one were to take a sabbatical from reading books for a X period of time. (There are still too many books to read and this question ultimately seemed false to me.) However one of the stemming thoughts from this idea was that any books/ideas that I wanted to read would need to be written by me (this was before I had
read Steiner's thoughts). the point of this sabbatical being clarity of thinking; sort of a cleansing action to allow thoughts to become constellations w/o constantly disturbing them with new consumption. Also to be less of a consumer, even of texts. In a recent article in the NYT, Ray Bradbury was interviewed. While saying some good things about libraries (“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money.") his remarks about the Internet have continued to occupy my thoughts. "
“The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked from his perch in his house in Los Angeles, which is jammed with enormous stuffed animals, videos, DVDs, wooden toys, photographs and books, with things like the National Medal of Arts sort of tossed on a table.“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’
“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
The first reaction is to dismiss his thoughts as being that of an out-of-touch elderly man but on further reflection there are more ways I believe he is right then the ones in which he is wrong. While the Internet does deliver many good things how many of those good but distracting things are distractions from thinking our own thoughts? (The irionic thing being that I will publish this via my blog but "narrative calls to be published" -Dalke- so I will do so.) Internet tools like Facebook seem to encourage performance rather than community or networking. The idea of a social network is a farce because there is no real structure (structure=an agreed upon time to come together and a time to depart) which marks, or at least has marked, our social interactions up to this point. (church, class etc.) This lack of structure (esp. the scheduled ending of things) and in my experience causes our online interactions to be performances rather than real interactions. W/o an ending point I continue the performance posting statuses for which I have a particular audience in mind.
And now a story after John Cage-
"I drove to Pittsburgh yesterday. Up at 5, shower, loaded up the car, swung by my office for the laptop, by Dunking Donuts for a large coffee and on the road by 6. 6 hours later arrived at the very bottom of Pittsburgh, by dint of trusting Google's directions rather my eyes and the signs for Oakland. Parked in a garage on Forbes and Meryan and after purchasing a grande Sumatra from the Starbucks that was my landmark when taking the bus three summers ago proceeded to walk up Forbes past the museums, heading from the Caliban Bookstore. I go to this bookstore every time I'm in Pittsburgh. However arriving there there is a strange reluctance to enter knowing this is really the last time. so I stand outside for five minutes, sipping my mostly full
cup of coffee, giving directions to Quiznos like a citizen and sitting down at a table outside of Kiva Hahn under the overhang which keeps out the rain full of bonhomie and good cheer at the day, the coffee and my book. I have about an hour to sit, read and drink. Towards the end of that
hour a dreadlocked individual wearing a black t-shirt underneath green overalls interrupts
-have you bought anything from us -in the past yes (for some reason I think I'm still in front of the book shop and that this is someone from the bookstore)
-well do you have to sit here? they are our biggest competitor and you're sitting in front of our shop.
-i'm sorry. i was just looking for a place to sit.
-at least turn the cup so the logo doesn't show.
-i apologize. I was not paying attention at all. (empty cup is put into trash. machiato purchased.)
-i'm sorry if I came off like a b*tch.
-not at all.