Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Too Much To Know, a brief homage to Blair.

Happy New Year from the Bookcharmer! I am happy to share with you the great solace I am finding in Ann Blair's Too Much To Know, or as I like to call it, TM2K. While I am still in the front quarter of this book, I am eager to recommend it. I hope you find in it, as I have, a sense of relief for knowing that centuries earlier, as pages of information spilled forth from copyists and printers' hands, the reading public already felt overwhelmed not only by the information they could see, but also by knowing that some texts were already forever lost. I don't know what form of psychological comfort it is to know that we are all lost together, but it is sort like that sense of relief when you feel are possibly the only person in the world to experience a certain problem, then find out the person next to you has the same struggle. And together, you go on.

Blair's clear and concise explanation of the "read the best few" vs. "read as much as you possibly can" tension across the centuries is also illustrated by the examples of printing and publishing conventions that emerged to cope with information overload, such as (new favorite word) florilegia and reference sources. I can't do justice to her explanation of florilegia, except that I had an immediate vision of "the flowers of literature" which goes a long way to explaining my love of books of quotations and but also led to immediate chagrin to find lots of other clever people on the internet are already using Flora Legia as nom de plumes and possibly stage names.

I have much more to read, I have simply paused on page 55 of TM2K to let the arguments of Erasmus roll around in my head and to demonstrate my good faith in the value of writing about good books!

If you've tired of my scribblings, do get yourself to Professor Blair's page where a great deal of her erudition is available for the cost of Internet access:


Happy New Year, and happy reading!

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