Sunday, 17 October 2010

book haul and a plea for better artificial memory


I went out cruising the bookstores with my wife and mother today, which resulted in a somewhat gargantuan and no doubt rashly timed book haul:

  1. Collected Poems: Tony Harrison
  2. Selected Poems 1908-1969: Ezra Pound
  3. All Shot Up: Chester Himes
  4. Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand: Samuel R. Delany
  5. Maigret Mystified: Georges Simenon
  6. 10,000 Light-Years From Home: James Tiptree Jr
  7. Shards Of Space: Robert Sheckley
  8. The Saint In New York: Leslie Charteris
  9. The Princess And The Goblin: George MacDonald
  10. Fundamental Disch: Thomas M. Disch
  11. Johnny And The Dead: Terry Pratchett
  12. Melmoth The Wanderer: Charles Robert Maturin
  13. Marriages and Infidelities: Joyce Carol Oates
  14. Damned To Fame - The Life Of Samuel Beckett: James Knowlson
  15. Asimov's Guide To The Bible
  16. Raymond Chandler - A Biography: Tom Hiney
  17. The Real Life Of Anthony Burgess: Andrew Biswell
I wonder when I'll get around to reading all of them. My backlog of unread books has reached ridiculous proportions, even though I work diligently at finishing them all. Sometimes I wish they'd work out the brain-computer interface a little faster (if they're working on it at all) so that I can have all these books already in my memory instantly, in such a way that all the correlations and connections you make with the contents of a specific book and everything else in your memory (which is the knowledge and context each individual carries around in their own head) are automatically made. As for the first-hand, sensual pleasure of reading the actual book, that can be done at moments of leisure by remembering their contents in perfect detail. Even though I love collecting physical books I'm no Luddite; if such a technology existed, I would be all for it.

(The image at the head of this post is courtesy jef safi. It's the Sator Square, a mnemonic device that dates back to Roman times and may have been used to remember a religious or magical formula. Another fascinating historical method of extending the human memory was the memory palace.)

3 comments:

Space Bar said...

Oh my. Some envy and some awe. Where did you find these?

JP said...

Bookworm+Blossom so the haul was within 4K.

anna tambour said...

You have identified a problem we all have. So you could be the solution. All you have to do is write The Mnemonical Guide to Literature. Using this guide, one could remember the whole canon in no time. Take, for instance, the first line of Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael." The mnemonic is "Cauterise my intestines." And so on, through the book. With this method, one could recall Ulysses in less time than it takes to remember how to say mnemonic.

Fascinating book haul! It's a kind of voyeurism peeking into someone's library