Monday, December 20, 2004


The World of Borges Made Real?
Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading (nope, I haven't read it, but it's on my shelf), wrote an essay in yesterday's NYT discussing Google's plan to scan millions of books from the public domain into their system and make them searchable. Manguel associates this move with the quixotic fixation of Western culture on the possibility of attaining a present, true, complete, total knowledge, the kind Borges wrote about in "The Library of Babel." I hadn't read that story since college until I read this piece and picked it back up this morning. Like all of the stories of his that I have read, it is a beautiful puzzle:
...the Library is total and its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite): in other words, all that is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels' autobiographies, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Balisades, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books. When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all boks, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness.
I the protestations of Google's critics are off the mark here. But so are many of its apologists. This move may make scholarship easier and more efficient, but I doubt it can make good scholarship any more likely. Buy selected Borges stories (no kickbacks here...) here.

Top 10 Films of the Year
According to Roger Ebert. Million Dollar Baby, Kill Bill, Volume 2, and Vera Drake are the top 3. I missed Spiderman 2, but does it really deserve to be #4?

Top 50 Records of the Year
According to Rolling Stone. I'm skeptical of any such list that includes Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, and Elton John. But I will admit I haven't heard those masterpieces, so I could be the one missing out. Glad to see Elliott Smith, Prince and Wilco on the list.

Conservatism in Desperate Housewives
The Nation's Richard Goldstein thinks that the theme of irony over the simultaneous Bush electoral dominance, with the Nielson dominance of Desperate Housewives, is just hype. The show, he says, is pure red-state, against all prevailing opinion.

Weekend Box office
1. Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events
2. Ocean's Twelve
3. Spanglish
4. Polar Express
5. Blade: Trinity

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