https://bobostory.wordpress.com List

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Monday, September 29, 2014

928

http://www.vjmedia.com.hk/articles/2014/09/29/86449

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Good English

http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html#errors

桃花源—— 讀書和Reading之別


2014-09-25
          
富豪馬雲的「讀書無用論」曾經在中國引發激烈爭議,但馬雲的原話是,成功不成功與讀書多少沒關係,潛台詞是書讀得太多,令人局限於書本,喪失創造力。

        許多中國人反駁他,美國的蓋茲、巴菲特不會說這種話,因為他們本人也酷愛讀書。要聽懂馬雲的這句話,需要定義「讀書」,因為中文的「讀書」,跟英文的「閱讀」(Reading)不一樣。

        英文的「閱讀」是中立的,雜而包容,並無明確目的與功能,美國總統個個都有閱讀習慣,無論他們政績如何,閱讀是個人內心喜惡的一種含蓄表達。杜魯門可能是最喜歡讀書的總統,他曾經說「世界上唯一的新鮮事就是你不知道的歷史。」小布殊雖然以牛仔形象深入人心,他也公開告訴大家:放假時他除了狂打網球、騎馬、釣魚、跑步之外,也會讀一些書,他必須討好「外面的文化人」。

        但是中文的「讀書」由科舉時代開始,已經直接與仕途掛鈎,「讀書人」與一般的平民百姓不一樣,他們有一朝翻身的可能:「朝為田舍郎,暮登天子堂」,這種賭博心態,令中文「讀書」二字,缺乏休閒怡情成份,反而隱隱包含辛酸血淚的掙扎。關於讀書,中文的鑿壁偷光、懸樑刺股、十年寒窗、書中自有黃金屋、學海無涯苦作舟之流,有一股迂腐的酸苦。

        「讀書人」晉升到士大夫的風險非常大,容易造成讀書人的心理扭曲:讀書不成的讀書人,或許是因妒成恨,譬如洪秀全,以及後來敵視知識份子的毛澤東。中國民族對讀書,以及讀書人的特殊心理,除了科舉制,還有南宋之後的歷史創傷,蒙古人鄙視讀書人的「九儒十丐」,種下仇恨的根基。

        由於讀書與政治經濟地位掛鈎,而中國社會大多數人口都是文盲,讀書人夾在統治者與被統治的黎民之間,往往自覺高人一等,而造成讀書人與底層社會的割裂甚至對立,他們一但仕途失敗,下場通常很悲慘,淪為窮酸秀才:「四體不勤、五榖不分」、「百無一用是書生」、「平時袖手談心性,臨危一死報君王」,只是一班讀書不成,做人不通的「書呆子」、「蠢書蟲」。

        所以中國人讀書,不是為了休閒興趣,而是為了想「成功」——這跟古代只以仕途經濟來界定的讀書一樣。中國人聽不明白馬雲這句話,是因為他們以為書讀得愈多,讀幾個博士,就可以賺大錢,當人上人,而不是出於充滿求知欲而熱愛閱讀。如果可以放下「成功」的執念,只是為了好奇求知去讀書,這樣的書是讀不完的,讀再多也沒有問題。

        陶傑

Thursday, September 11, 2014

阿城 《且说侯孝贤》

2014-09-07 拍电影网

  七十年代末,我从乡下返回城里。在乡下的十年真是快,快得像压缩饼乾,可是站在北京,痴楞楞竟觉得自行车风驰电掣,久久不敢过街。又喜欢看警察,十年没见过这种人了,好新鲜。尚记得十年前迁户口上山下乡,三龙路派出所的户籍警左右看看,说:"想好喽,迁出去可就迁不回来啦!"我亦看看左右。八零年,开始厌警察,朋友指导我说这才有个北京人的样子嘛。路何漫漫,接着虚心接受城里人的再教育罢。

  另一种回到城里的感觉是慌慌张张看电影。北京好像随时都在放"内部电影",防 不胜防,突然就有消息,哪个哪个地方几点几点放甚么电影,有一张票、门口儿见。慌慌张张骑车,风驰电掣,门口人头攒动,贼一样地寻人,接到票后窃喜, 挤进门去。灯光暗下来,于是把左腿叠过右腿,或者把右腿放到左腿上,很高兴 地想,原来小的在乡下种地,北京人猫在"内部"看电影呀。

  慌慌张张的结果是看了不少愚蠢的中外电影,心理学的逻辑认为"被诱惑"不成 立。想想自己,有道理,应该不会"被电影愚蠢",而是我愚蠢。

  但聪明人之多,使八十年代初五年大陆文艺热闹非凡。与其说政治集权,不如说文艺人将政治通于"商业广告",凡触政治大小忌,必沸沸扬扬。也难怪,几十年下来,文艺人都兼精政治,只是闪避和手眼通天的区别。京中会议讲演繁多,小 道消息惊心动魄,无数天才乃至各种主义直至特异功能,轮番淘汰。没有快刀斩 乱麻的本事,只好一个晚上都是梦。

  一九八六年春,由拍了《黄土地》而声名大噪的凯歌介绍荣念曾给我认识。这荣念曾甚是谦谦,骨子里却侠,我因下面一件事总要感谢他。
  一天荣念曾邀我去他那里,说录了几个东西,值得看看。荣念曾住北京西郊友谊宾馆,是个有警察把守的地界,我骑自行车去,自然被叱下来,在小屋里盘问许 久。找到了荣念曾,五十年代曾经是苏联人住的单元里有一架日本电视机,还有一部 SONY录像机。荣念曾把一盒录像带放进录像机里,一会儿,影像开始出现了。初 时我倒不在意,因为北京流傅各种录像带,又常会碰到十几人屏声静气地看妖精打架,带子翻录的次数过多,成年男女妖精真成绿的了。

  厂标之后是创作人员,导演侯孝贤等等,都规规矩矩。我还记得第一个画面是门柱上钉块小木牌,楷书"高雄县政府宿舍",开始有画外音,好像是个男人揉着眼睛自言自语。我很喜欢这种似乎是无意间听到的感觉,有如在乡下歇晌,懵懵然 听到甚么人漫声漫气,听也可,非听亦可,不必正襟。

  画面也像是无意间瞥到的,我于是危坐,好象等到了甚么。阿哈赢得玻璃弹子,将它们自以为稳妥地藏在树下,回去被母亲问是不是拿了家里的钱,犟嘴,被母 亲打,直接转回树下,玻璃弹子统没有了,母亲用蒲扇打阿哈的小腿,阿哈跳来 跳去,远处祖母坐人力车回来了,于是一家人走过去。摄影机并没有殷勤地推拉摇化。

  我心里惨叫一声:这导演是在创造"素读"嘛!苦也,我说在北京这几年怎么总是 于心戚戚,大师原来在台湾。于是问道侯孝贤何许人,荣念曾答了,我却没有记清,因为耳逐目随,须臾不能离开萤幕。

  从来没有看到过拍得这么好的少年人打架。人奔过来,街边的老头依然扳着腿吃食,人又奔过去,转过街角,消失,复出现,少年人的精力,就是这样借口良 多,毫不吝啬。挥霍之中,又烦愁种种,弹指间就嘴上长毛。第一次遗精,用手 沾来闻,慌慌的。父亲死了,守夜时听鬼故事。母亲死去,哭得令哥哥奇怪地瞄一眼。人就是这么奇怪地长大了,渐悟世理。而明白之后,能再素面少年时的莫 明其妙,非有特殊的品性。

  在此之前,我看过特吕佛(F. Truffaut)的《四百下》(LesQuatre Cents Coups),好像只是用铅笔在纸上擦来擦去,一个电影就拍完了。当时也是打听这特吕佛何许人,说是法国人,于是铭记在心。后来在香港得陆离送的一薄本楚浮 专集,才知道楚浮即是大陆译成特吕佛的,《四百击》译为《四百下》,但我喜 欢楚浮这译名。

  看完《童年往事》我大概有些颠颠倒倒,荣念曾在一旁请人一顿好饭似地微笑着。看另外一盒现代舞蹈时,凯歌来了。凯歌拍完《黄土地》后,正在筹拍《孩 子王》,我怕干扰他,言明绝不参舆,但还是忍不住用《童年往事》暗示了一 番。凯歌到底强悍,不受影响,拍成自己样式的电影,顺便用镜头将《棋王》、《树王》也轻轻扫荡了,自有幽默在,令我思省当初用暗示干涉创作自由的溢好心。

  一九八六年夏天,我在香港留了一个月。一日方育平来,说侯孝贤这两天在香港客串舒琪的《老娘够骚》,愿意的话,去看看。当然愿意,并促快走,方育平 说,要到晚上啦。方育平开车,走了很久。香港地方小,走那么久,无疑是我错觉所致。那时海峡 两岸还在神经过敏抽筋时期,所以方让我候在路旁,他唤侯孝贤出来。当夜无月,又不在城里,黑暗中点了支烟,老老实实地吸,一会儿,方育平引侯孝贤、 柯一正来,握手,与侯孝贤的第一面竟是看不清面目。互相问候,我当下即辨出 《童年往事》要的画外音就是孝贤的声音。到得亮处,孝贤是小个子,直细的头发扇在头上,眼睛亮,有血丝,精力透支又随时有精力。孝贤很温和,但我晓得民间镇得住场面的常常是小个子,好像四川 的出了人命,魁伟且相貌堂堂者分开众人,出来的袍哥却个子小,三言两语就把 事情摆平了。孝贤提到他想拍《孩子王》,令我一惊,其实大喜,继之无奈,告诉孝贤凯歌已经着手了。

  在香港只得惊鸿一瞥。后来孝贤托人带到北京一盒牛肉乾,儿子立刻拿了几大块到街上与邻居小孩分吃,不一会儿即进来再要,说,隔壁小军他们喜欢吃,我 说,告诉他们,你爸爸也喜欢吃。第二次见面是当年九月在纽约,林肯中心放孝贤的《童年往事》,胶片的,也就是真迹,于是赶去看。在门口会到孝贤,焦雄屏用我的相机拍张照片,洗出来是 模糊的,类似夏阳笔下照像写实主义的闪过的人影。后来去张北海家聚,拍的几 张,亦是模糊的。我寻思这侯孝贤果然厉害,有他在镜头里,大家就都不清不楚的。

  这之后的收获是谭敏送的孝贤的《恋恋风尘》与《风柜来的人》的翻录带。住在丹青家,两个人点了烟细细地看这两部题目无甚出奇的片子,随看随喜。完毕之 后,丹青煎了咖啡,边啜边聊,谈谈,又去放了带子再看,仍是随看随喜。之后 数日话题就是孝贤的电影,虽然也去苏荷逛逛画廊,中城看看博物馆,买买唱片寻寻旧书,纽约亦只像居处的一张席子,与话题无关。
  《恋恋风尘》与《风柜来的人》,都有一个难写处,即少年人的"情"。民国之 后,动辄讲"大时代",到底也有过几回大境遇。不料这"大"到了艺术中,常常只 僵在个"大"上,甚或耻于"不大",结果尾大不得调之。四九年以后的大陆,时 时要大,不大,不但是道德问题,而且简直反革命,例如向党生之日的某某周年献礼,你敢小么?

  不妨随手摘录些耳熟能详的日常用语:大跃进,大扫除,大鸣大放大字报;大团结,大锅饭,大大低估了;大丰收(该词难解在"丰"收难道会是"小"的吗?), 大检查,文化大革命;党内最大的走资派,大多数是好的;大兵团作战,大大推动了,三大法宝;大讲特讲,社会主义大家庭,大是大非;大公无私,大无畏的 无产阶级革命精神……比较下来,大头针,大写字母,大肠杆菌,实在无颜 称"大"。

  八五年在上海与朋友闲扯,其中一个女作家忽然恐惑起来,说,北方人有黄河可写,我们上海人怎么办?我只好苦笑,安慰说上海不是在长江的入海口嘛。还记 得一个颇有名气的画家朋友翻看洋文画册,终于不解地合上画,叹道,都说是大 画家,怎么老画些小苹果儿?我倒喜欢他大话说得老老实实。

  终于弄得头大,青光眼,常用胸呼吸,小腹退化。几次看别人拍电影,都是打板后,没人叮瞩,演员们却个个微微把肩吸高了。后来学得一个"没有表演的表 演",又卖力去表演"没有表演",浓妆淡抹总不相宜。但这些常常被自用一个"风 格"来圆场,观众当然明白那骨子里是"不明就里"四个常用字。中国三四十年代 的电影,一路好好的,结尾忽然说起大话来,处在当时,可能有彩头,时过境 迁,只觉得像细细吃面忽然打嗝。

  转回来说这个"情",焉能不大?即使大,亦是大有大的用法。看《甘地传》暗杀一场,上百万人的场面,几闪而过,类似大鼓只敲了三两下,毫不痛惜投资。苏 轼写《赤壁怀古》似倾盆大雨,中间却撑出一柄伞,说,"小乔初嫁了"。中国文 章中的大,总是与史与兴亡有关,诗亦是这样,可中国没有史诗,只称诗史,甚 么道理?说"诗言志",翻看下来,诗还是言情的多。写"情"这个东西,诗词中讲 究起于"象"。辛弃疾"醉里挑灯看剑",壮志难酬,写来却实在得有灯有剑。大归 大,仰之弥高且虚,脖子酸了,起码要腹诽的。

  但少年人的"情"之难写,还不在此,而是挥霍却不知是挥霍,爱惜而无经验爱 惜。好像河边自家的果子,以为随时可取,可怜果子竟落水漂走。又如家中坐久了的木凳,却忽然遍寻不着。老年了才恭恭敬敬地晒太阳,其实那东西与少年时 有何不同?而最要命的是那种劝也白搭的伤感;或者相反,阳刚得像广东人说 的"死鸡撑锅盖"。
《恋恋风尘》

  《风柜来的人》片名中性,《恋恋风尘》我初见时略有担心,一路下来,却收拾得好,结尾阿远穿了阿云以前做的短袖衫退伍归家,看母亲缩脚举手卧睡,出去 与祖父扯谈稼穑,少年历得风尘,倒像一树的青果子,夜来风雨,正耽心着,晓 来望去却忽然有些熟了,于是感激。

  《风柜来的人》以少年挥霍为始(挥霍永远有现代感),忽然就有尴尬的沉静,因为尴尬,所以还时时会暴躁,这暴躁并非不纯,原来质感就是道样的。
  
  《童年往事》倒是有了不同成长时期的过程,但并非以童年为因,少年青年为果,而是一个状态联一个状熊。中国诗的铺成恰恰是这样的,我想中国章回小说 的连缀构成,可能有中国诗的"基因"影响。

  中国诗有一个特点是意不在行为,起码是不求行为的完整,这恐怕是中国诗不产生史诗的重要原因罢。孝贤的导演剪接意识是每段有行为的整体质感,各段间的 逻辑却是中国诗句的并列法,就像"两个黄鹂鸣翠柳,一行白鹭上青天,窗含西岭千秋雪,门泊东吴万里船"这四句,它们之间有甚么必然的因果关系吗?没 有,却"没有"出个体来。孝贤的电影语法是中国诗,此所以孝贤的电影无疑是中国电影,认真讲,他又是第一人,且到现在为止似乎还没有第二个中国导演这样 拍电影。贝托鲁奇《末代皇帝》,再怎么用中国人,由语法即是西方电影。我也 因此似乎明白了八十年代初大陆兴过一阵无情节电影而终隔一层的道理。

  说孝贤的电影语法是中国诗,很多人都已经看出,但执这种语法类型就是好,需再申说,因为类型还只是分别。中国早期电影的语法显然有美国好莱坞电影的语法,亦有声有色。另有几部的拍法则据说先于意大利新现实主义,其实是西方诗 和东方诗的混合,本来已经有了一种成为经典的可能出来,例如费穆的《小城之春》,张爱玲的《太太万岁》,石挥的《我这一辈子》,但都因似乎与夺取天下的大时代无关而被批判遗弃。之后是大陆全盘苏化。我小时恨上课,游逛时劈面 望见苏联影片《爱莲娜,回家去!》三层楼高的广告,吓了一跳,以为要发起整 顿逃学的运动。看了《库图佐夫》的剧照后,不服气水浒一百单八将竟没有一条好汉是独眼龙。五十年代中有过一阵意大利新现实主义的小影响,结果是由留苏 的成荫拍《上海姑娘》,名为展示留苏回来的成果。中苏政治反目后,电影亦反目,结果是不动声色地好莱坞语法成为御用语法,一直到江青用好莱坞传统细细监修完毕八个样板戏。好莱坞就好莱坞,只要百姓有娱乐,苦累得忒狠,九十分 钟的梦不无小补,电影刚在法国发明出来时也是一种杂耍。谢晋亦是继承好莱 坞,把玩得炉火纯青,朝野称善。这一脉香火,庙正多,只有认认真真续下去的问题。

  用各种语法去拍,都有可能是好电影,问题是除了苦学勤问都可得到的"智",谁有"慧"?大概是命,石头里蹦出个猢狲,台湾出了个侯孝贤。尽可以用各种流派 去比量孝贤的电影,尽可以用孝贤去串联小津、费里尼甚至安东尼奥尼等,孝贤的电影都是自成智慧的。大师之间,只有尊敬,真理的对面,还是真理,无小人 戚戚。这恐怕是我敬孝贤的基本道理罢。至于申说孝贤的电影与中国诗的关系, 讲得精采的还是朱天文在《悲情城市》一书里的"十三"问,我当知趣就此煞住。

  我真糊堡,竟然没有想到孝贤是不是应该拍大题材电影。直到孝贤带《悲情城市》到洛杉矶首映(究竟是甚么"映",我一直没有搞清楚,姑且"首映"),我才 发现赫然有了一棵大树。八九年冬,说洛杉矶有冬,无异"为赋新词强说愁",孝贤由纽约沿路过来,一行 还有朱天文,吴念真,舒琪。吴念真半路走了,我心仪甚久,却无缘识面。

  放电影的前一晚,卢非易一车将他们载来,我却正在洗手间,听得外面车门关得砰砰响,心里着急。出来相见,孝贤还是那个孝贤,一棵大树瞒得严严实实。朱 天文却令我一惊,小个子,话不多,渺目烟视。孝贤的几部好片都有朱天文编 剧,其才已是侯孝贤电影的构成之一。天文离洛杉矶时送我她的书,当夜即读,甚是敬佩,此处不表。第二天去西好莱坞看《悲情城市》,映前不免是礼服晃动,酒食随取的老套,顿 生无聊之心,想,孝贤的电影在此地演,若错,自在误上。

  果然,映后的现场座谈,只有散落的十数人,听问者的英语,都带口音,心下释然,笑道礼服们散去得有道理,片中那样庞杂的血缘关系,简直是考美国人心 算。意大利人对家族关系的理解真是一流的,《悲情城市》得威尼斯大奖有道理。

  《悲情城市》令我想到贝托鲁奇的《1900》。《1919》有历史的美和因无奈于历 史而流露的嘲弄之美,其结构是"历史"中的"历","史"反而是对"历"的观念,贝 托鲁奇以二次完成其审美的质量,但许多人不也是这样做的吗?所以《1900》的好处在钟情于角色的生长质感而惑于观念对生长环境的价值判断,无论角色的还 是导演的。孝贤的《悲情城市》其实不当拿来类比。《悲情城市》被喧闹于历 史,我认为那是正常的商业手段。《悲情城市》是伐大树倒,令你看断面,却又不是让你数年轮以明其大,只是使你触摸这断面的质感,以悟其根系绵延,风霜雨雪,皆有影响,不免伤残,又皆渡得过,滋生新鲜。《童年往事》其实已是大 片规模,但人都作小片看,一个人从小长到知情知爱,其艰难不亚于社会的几次革命,之间随时有生灭,皆偶然与不可知。片尾兄弟几个呆看人收拾死去的祖母,青春竟可以是"法相庄严",生死相照,却不涉民族人性的聒噪,真是好得历 历在目在心。(EttoreScola)的电影《家族》(La Famiglia)纵八十年,横五代凡数十人,看完却惊异完全没有外景如有外景及戏剧功力之举重若轻、举轻若重。我常以为法国人意大利人天生会用电影说话,孝贤则使我同样看 他的电影。
《悲情城市》剧照

  《悲情城市》有一点极难拿捏,就是有关知识分子。知识分子不易描实,因为这种人常示人以思想,转述他们的思想,搞不好就让人误以为是创作者的思想。孝贤以前的作品里还没有出现过这么多的知识分子甚至有关他们的命运,这一次陷阱得以渡过,是孝贤拍"天意",以"自然法则"出入,是以知识分子展现为现象,"自然法则底下人们的活动"。由此反观回去,孝贤的电影美学其实一向如 此,照说本不该对孝贤有"大题材""小题材"的要求。这种要求,如果不是投资者的广告手段,就是某某分子自作多情的偏狭。中国大陆电影受"大题材"之误,其实已到了甘心情愿的地步,又常常是哲学之狼披上庶民的外衣,狗嘴里偏吐出象牙来,观众不傻,当然将"悲剧"作"喜剧"看。我若滥好心,倒可以拿大陆的例子来劝孝贤,可孝贤在这方面是"免疫"的。所以找指《悲情城市》为大树,是指人 物关系庞杂,却自然生长为树。

  所以这"历"这"史",才来得活,来得泼。其中各色人等,若大风起,不同树木, 翻转姿态各异,却无不在风向里。小角色妄得一个"风"字,大师只恣意写树。

  孝贤的难学也在这里,看就是了。这类东西尽可以分析,尽可以研究,但生猛海鲜常可轻易摆脱抽象之网。此,也是我认为的孝贤的好,自己总是再看一遍又不同一遍。细想道几年的交往,孝贤原来没有说过几句话,倒是我尽在聒噪,悔得 躲在床上学曾子三省吾身揪头发。

孝贤他们那晚在我屋里坐,真是天地不仁,温度几近于零。我心里甚替天意过意不去,大家却聊得好。终于又是离开,孝贤他们走到院子里,打开车门,进去, 车发动了。因院子里路不得回转,车打亮灯后,倒行出去,让人觉得告辞像一段 影片倒放。其实是不可能再正放了,孝贤他们此去,返回台湾,还有下一部影片要做。我看着一行人离去,如我每次看孝贤的片子之后一样,心中只有感激。

How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read


by 
“Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught.”
At first blush, a book titled How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (public library) sounds at once sacrilegious in its proposition and wildly meta-ironic. Then again, it gets to the heart of a painfully familiar literary bind — that book about a fascinating sliver of science, written by a breathlessly boring academic; the fetishized Ulysseses of the world, reluctantly half-read and promptly forgotten; the Gladwellian tome that could’ve been, should’ve been, and likely at some point was a magazine article. Must we read those from cover to cover in order to be complete, cultured individuals?
Beneath the no doubt intentionally scandalizing title, psychoanalyst and University of Paris literature professorPierre Bayard offers a compelling meditation on this taboo subject that makes a case for reading not as a categorical dichotomy but as a spectrum of engaging with literature in various ways, along different dimensions — books we’ve read, books we’ve skimmed, books we’ve heard about, books we’ve forgotten, books we’ve never opened. Literature becomes not a container of absolute knowledge but a compass for orienteering ourselves to and in the world and its different contexts, books become not isolated objects but a system of relational understanding:
As cultivated people know (and, to their misfortune, uncultivated people do not), culture is above all a matter oforientation. Being cultivated is a matter not of having read any book in particular, but of being able to find your bearings within books as a system, which requires you to know that they form a system and to be able to locate each element in relation to the others. The interior of the book is less important than its exterior, or, if you prefer, the interior of the book is its exterior, since what counts in a book is the books alongside it.
But our culture, argues Bayard, is wrought with “obligations and prohibitions” that have created a repressive system full of hypocrisy about what books we have actually read — and our lies tend to be in proportion to the perceived significance of the book in question. “I know few areas of private life, with the exception of finance and sex,” he quips, “in which it’s as difficult to obtain accurate information.”
So how, then, do we navigate that system and its burden of expectations?
A book is an element in the vast ensemble I have called thecollective library, which we do not need to know comprehensively in order to appreciate any one of its elements… The trick is to define the book’s place in that library, which gives it meaning in the same way a word takes on meaning in relation to other words.
To engage with literature — and, by extension, with the world — in meaningful ways, argues Bayard, we need to understand the relationships between works and their position relative to each other within the collective library:
Rather than any particular book, it is indeed these connections and correlations that should be the focus of the cultivated individual, much as a railroad switchman should focus on the relations between trains — that is, their crossings and transfers — rather than the contents of any specific convoy.
Of particular note is Bayard’s conception of non-reading as a kind of curatorial choice every bit as indicative of our intellectual curiosity as the choice of reading:
Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught.
As a proponent of codifying our transparency about information, I was particularly delighted by Bayard’s proposed notation system for the different levels of non-reading and subjective interpretation:
UB book unknown to me
SB book I have skimmed
HB book I have heard about
FB book I have forgotten
++ extremely positive opinion
+ positive opinion
- negative opinion
 extremely negative opinion
Citing Umberto Eco, Bayard observes:
The book is an undefined object that we can discuss only in imprecise terms, an object forever buffeted by our fantasies and illusions. The second volume of Aristotle’s Poetics, impossible to find even in a library of infinite capacity, is no different from most other books we discuss in our lives. They are all reconstructions of originals that lie so deeply buried beneath our words and the words of others that, even were we prepared to risk our lives, we stand little chance of ever finding them within reach.
Bayard points out that one dimension of reading we often forget is that of time — a dimension inextricably linked to the biases, imperfections, and limited capacity of our memory, to which even the most dedicated of readers aren’t immune — furthering the portrait of reading by way of the intellectual negative space around it:
Reading is not just acquainting ourselves with a text or acquiring knowledge; it is also, from its first moments, an inevitable process of forgetting.
[…]
To conceive of reading as loss — whether it occurs after we skim a book, in absorbing a book by hearsay, or through the gradual process of forgetting—rather than as gain is a psychological resource essential to anyone seeking effective strategies for surviving awkward literary confrontations.
Echoing William Gibson’s notion of personal microculture and Austin Kleon’s insight that “you are a mashup of what you let into your life,” Bayard puts it beautifully:
In truth we never talk about a book unto itself; a whole set of books always enters the discussion through the portal of a single title, which serves as a temporary symbol for a complete conception of culture. In every such discussion, our inner libraries — built within us over the years and housing all our secret books — come into contact with the inner libraries of others, potentially provoking all manner of friction and conflict.
For we are more than simple shelters for our inner libraries; we are the sum of these accumulated books. Little by little, these books have made us who we are, and they cannot be separated from us without causing us suffering.
Having once fallen in love with someone who heartily recommended to me a terrible piece of fiction, only to find out after a series of more tangible disappointments that we were wildly incompatible, I can’t help but nod wistfully at Bayard’s observation:
The books we love offer a sketch of a whole universe that we secretly inhabit, and in which we desire the other person to assume a role.
One of the conditions of happy romantic compatibility is, if not to have read the same books, to have read at least some books in common with the other person—which means, moreover, to have non-read the same books. From the beginning of the relationship, then, it is crucial to show that we can match the expectations of our beloved by making him or her sense the proximity of our inner libraries.
Bayard advocates for redefining our culture’s expectations of reading, away from the linear, the absolutist, and the unbudgingly comprehensive, and towards the nonlinear, the relativist, the selective:
To speak without shame about books we haven’t read, we would thus do well to free ourselves of the oppressive image of cultural literacy without gaps, as transmitted and imposed by family and school, for we can strive toward this image for a lifetime without ever managing to coincide with it. Truth destined for others is less important than truthfulness to ourselves, something attainable only by those who free themselves from the obligation to seem cultivated, which tyrannizes us from within and prevents us from being ourselves.
[…]
Only in accepting our non-reading without shame can we begin to take an interest in what is actually at stake, which is not a book but a complex interpersonal situation of which the book is less the object than the consequence.
Some of Bayard’s opinions, particularly in defending the idea that we’re somehow supposed to develop our own point of view not via critical thinking but by taking cue from the impressions of others, stand in stark contrast withmy own. He argues:
If a book is less a book than it is the whole of the discussion about it, we must pay attention to that discussion in order to talk about the book without reading it. For it is not the book itself that is at stake, but what it has become within the critical space in which it intervenes and is continually transformed. It is this moving object, a supple fabric of relations between texts and beings, about which one must be in a position to formulate accurate statements at the right moment.
Beneath the discussion of books, however, bubbles a larger discussion of information’s systems and paradigms of creation and consumption. In contrasting the networked knowledge and wealth of context necessary for criticism with the subjective expression at the heart of art, Bayard concludes:
Criticism demands infinitely more culture than artistic creation.
But Baynard’s keenest insight is perhaps this one, which has less to do with the social connotations of reading than with our individual experience of it:
The paradox of reading is that the path toward ourselves passes through books, but that this must remain a passage. It is a traversal of books that a good reader engages in — a reader who knows that every book is the bearer of part of himself and can give him access to it, if only he has the wisdom not to end his journey there.
So what is really at stake here, and why should any of it matter? Bayard offers in the epilogue:
Such an evolution implies extricating ourselves from a whole series of mostly unconscious taboos that burden our notion of books. Encouraged from our school years onward to think of books as untouchable objects, we feel guilty at the very thought of subjecting them to transformation.
It is necessary to lift these taboos to begin to truly listen to the infinitely mobile object that is a literary text. The text’s mobility is enhanced whenever it participates in a conversation or a written exchange, where it is animated by the subjectivity of each reader and his dialogue with others, and to genuinely listen to it implies developing a particular sensitivity to all the possibilities that the book takes on in such circumstances.
He ties it back to our broken formal education system:
Our educational system is clearly failing to fulfill its duties of deconsecration, and as a result, our students remain unable to claim the right to invent books. Paralyzed by the respect due to texts and the prohibition against modifying them, forced to learn them by heart or to memorize what they ‘contain,’ too many students lose their capacity for escape and forbid themselves to call on their imagination in circumstances where that faculty would be extraordinarily useful.
To show them, instead, that a book is reinvented with every reading would give them the means to emerge unscathed, and even with some benefit, from a multitude of difficult situations.
[…]
All education should strive to help those receiving it to gain enough freedom in relation to works of art to themselves become writers and artists.
Ultimately, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read isn’t permission to dismiss books but an ode to the very love of books, the totality of which we use as a powerful sensemaking mechanism for the world.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Libraries of the Rich and Famous BY WALLACE YOVETICH


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As I’ve been unpacking boxes and realizing that I don’t even have enough bookshelves to put my books on, I decided to torture myself and look at homes of people who can dedicate an entire room to being a library (most likely with the help of an uber-expensive designer to organize and make it look scrumptious). Would you like to be tortured too? Brace yourself…
Karl Lagerfield’s Personal Library: Not as cozy as I would pick for my own, but I would pay money to look through those titles… that’s a LOAD of books, folks! Aren’t you the least bit curious what is on those shelves?
*****
Diane Keaton’s Personal Library: Loving the lighting, loving the colors, the writing on the wall is pretty cool — but where are the chairs? I like to be able to sit down while perusing (or reading, for that matter). 
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Woody Allen’s Personal Library: Although I’m highly disgusted when someone marries their daughter (please, people… he helped raise her – adoptive/step-daughter/what-ever-kind-of-name-you-put-in-front-of-the-word daughter equals daughter), his library rocks. It’s comfortable, cozy, and old-school east coast-looking; love it. 
*****
Keith Richards’ Personal Library: This is a sweet personal library, but really… what did we expect from Keith Richards. I would really like to know what he has on hisshelves. 
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William Randolph Hearst’s Library: This is a dream of a library.  If it was mine, I would invite all of my friends over and we would have a big library party; everyone would be offered something to nosh on and then instructed find a place in the room and be super quiet while we all enjoyed devouring the books. Rocking party, I know… that’s how I roll. 
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Here we are again… you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging with only one installment of fabulous libraries did you? What if we pooled together money and created a house where there were no rooms what-so-ever beside libraries? All different, all wonderful, all ours? Divine. Let’s get going on that, shall we? In the meantime, grab a napkin because you’re about to be drooling over these lovelies…
Thanks to a reader from last week pointing out Neil Gaiman’s library to me. HELLO, this man reads. Think he’s read all of these, or might some of these be his to-be-read shelves?!?
*****
Sting’s library at the top of his staircase in London is beautiful. Very law school-philosophy vibe going on here… I dig it. Do you?
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Um, yes please! This is the library of designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka’s in their weekend house. I’ll take the weekend house and the library. The black painted wood adds a modern twist to this library, and I enjoy that they combined an eating area with their books. In fact, I think this would inspire me to have a reading dinner party. Wine, books, friends, and a game guessing passages from books? I’m there.
*****
Here is Julia Child’s personal library from when she lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This cozy, warm, neutral-toned library makes me want to curl up next to that fireplace and get lost in a book — or possibly a conversation with Julia and Paul about the books they own. Can you imagine the books that must be in that library? Paul was known as a very smart, well read man… I’m sure they have some treasures in there. If the walls could speak.
*****
This by far is my favorite library we’ve featured, and probably my favorite personal library that I’ve ever seen. It belongs to Professor Richard A. Macksey. Macksey is an author in his own right along with being a well-known, beloved professor at Johns Hopkins University, and co-founder of the university’s Humanities Center. He is the owner of one of the largest personal libraries in the state of Maryland, with over 70,000 ($4 million worth) books and manuscripts along with art work. Macksey’s course on Proust is famous among underground students at Johns Hopkins, and he is known to hold graduate level courses in his famous library.
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Apparently Parts One and Two weren’t enough for you – you wanted more. Don’t we all? More books, more nooks, more time to read. Here are four more extravagant libraries to whet your appetites. Now, if I could just figure out how to get inside of one of these grand ladies, I’d be a happy girl. 
Harlan Crow, real estate magnate from Dallas, Texas. It is said that he has a collection of over 8,000 books and 3,500 manuscripts, along with a collection of artwork, photographs, and correspondence. His library also contains a deed to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, as well as a silver tankard created by Paul Revere. US History fanatics… welcome to heaven. 
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Welcome to Skywalker Ranch – a residence of director and producer George Lucas. “A filmmaker’s retreat.” Lucas conducts a large portion of his business on his land. The home also boasts man-made Lake Ewok, a 300-seat theater, and its own fire station. The ranch is not open to the public, so we’ll all just have to hold our breath until we garner an invitation to read. 
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Readers from the last two posts have called out for this personal library to be showcased. Jay Walker is an inventor, entrepreneur, and chairman of Walker Digital. The founder of Priceline didn’t take price into account when building his personal library (bad pun?), did he? It’s said that Walker’s home was built around his library! Now that’s my kind of architecture. It would be a disservice to not lead you to an in depth article about this library. Caution: don’t forget to breathe while looking at the photos. 
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This is the library of the Biltmore House, the largest privately owned home in the United States. This is a Vanderbilt house (are you surprised?) built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. In a house that boasts 135,000 square feet and 250 rooms, I’m sure it would be easy to find somewhere quiet and cozy to read if this ornate room isn’t your style.