Peripatetic, itinerant, eclectic musings about books, politics, history, language, culture, and anything else that interests me.
“So many books, so little time.” In the unlovely shorthand parlance of our time, that t-shirt coffee mug credo stands in for a way to express the despair I feel when I think about all the books I want to read, plus the ones I’ll want to read that haven’t been published or written yet, plus the years remaining to me (20-25 years if I’m lucky, 30-35 years if I’m extraordinarily lucky, and 10 years if I die at the age my mother did — I’m two years past the age my father was when he died).
I’m not vain or self-centered enough to believe I’m the only voracious reader who feels this way, but my heart still lurched when I saw this lead-in (at Arts & Letters Daily) to an article in the Books section of the (UK) Guardian:
Our future is measured by the books we intend to read. Kierkegaard understood the anxiety. As more becomes possible, he said, less becomes actual…
Clicking through to the article, here is the first paragraph:
There was a time when a learned fellow (literally, a Renaissance man) could read all the major extant works published in the western world. Information overload soon put paid to that. Since there is “no end” to “making many books” – as the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes prophesied, anticipating our digital age – the realm of the unread has spread like a spilt bottle of correction fluid. 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.
There’s much more; read the whole thing here.