Mark Bernstein poses an interesting mortality question. It’s also about the mathematics of reading. In a lifetime, how many books can we read, and what now constitutes “book” or “book knowledge” besides the obvious package? At the moment, I’m reading Jesper Juul’s half-real because John game me a copy. I’m also reading several hypertexts, including Coulon’s The Reprover, and Don Quixote.

I skipped much of the chapters in Juul’s book after reading partway through them because they didn’t grab me so I probably wont read it in its entirety.

I understand the quandary. Many of us walk by the stack knowing full well that something else is going to come along. We feel like we’re missing something. We better move quick. It’s also about commitment, responsibility, and finishing what we decide to start. Then I remember what a wise person said: Everything’s in Alice Munro and everything’s in Beowulf and everything’s in Bashō. That’s pretty complicated, I remember saying. He said, Bashō already said that. I’m paraphrasing, of course.

6 thoughts on “Mortality

  1. gibb

    That’s cheating. Don’t you know that there’s always a quiz at the end? That at the pearly gates you will be questioned on the content of and not on how many books you’ve read?

    I suspect that skimming is a learned part of higher education. But the nuns in elementary school taught me commitment. You taught me lingering.

    Afraid of missing something? Yes. That’s why hypertext reading–and now I suppose I drag the anxiety into the writing of it as well–was such a huge problem for me to undertake.

    Each book is indeed complete. But only if you read it all.

  2. Mark Bernstein

    I hear you.

    But *is* everything in Bashō? Will Bashō teach me to use closures in Ruby? Will Bashō explain how to write a party in a hypertext — a party with energy and chaos, but one that also begins and ends? Will Bashō teach me how to make my mustard/apricot braising sauce more fruity and less bitter?

    I once had a tennis master who told us that everything in life was contained in tennis. He gave tennis lessons to groups of teens, working for the Chicago Park District. He repeated himself often. I never did learn a decent serve.

  3. Steve Post author

    “Will Bashō teach me to use closures in Ruby?”

    This is the problem. The wise man would say: everything is in Bashō and everything is in Matsumoto. It’s all about the practical application of infinite sets.

    The serve, by the way, is all in the knees and hips and toss. The best servers also have intuitive palms.

  4. Dennis G. Jerz

    I found Half-Real to be a spot-on analysis of the tension between ludology and narratology. I’ve used it twice in my “Video Game Culture and Theory” class, and I’ll probably use it again the next time I teach it.

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