things of little relevance

We like lists because we don’t want to die.
December 5, 2009, 1:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Apropos of the many “the best … of 2009/the decade” lists floating around the internet.

Eco: The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.

And I just really like the end of the interview:

SPIEGEL: You include a nice list by the French philosopher Roland Barthes in your new book, “The Vertigo of Lists.” He lists the things he loves and the things he doesn’t love. He loves salad, cinnamon, cheese and spices. He doesn’t love bikers, women in long pants, geraniums, strawberries and the harpsichord. What about you?

Eco: I would be a fool to answer that; it would mean pinning myself down. I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.

(Is anyone else as shocked as I am that Umberto Eco has read a Dan Brown novel? Also, my new pipe dream is to be his secretary.)


2 Comments so far
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Is it a crime to read what is popular or enjoyed by many?

You are the type of person who reads Bolano because he is not as successful as Dan Brown.

Comment by Layman

Actually I think it is a crime to read Dan Brown. His background research is atrocious. We’re reading him this term as an example of how NOT to write. Sadly, he does not even manage to get his factual details right.

Comment by anonymous

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