September 12, 2009
A MORNING'S REFLECTION
The most recent The New York Review of Books arrived in yesterday's late afternoon mail. This morning, over coffee, I did my usual initial, and slow, survey of its pages just to take in its landscape. That landscape, of course, includes announcements (advertisements really) from the various publishers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group--i.e., Knopf, Doubleday, Pantheon, Schocken, Vintage, Anchor, Nan. A. Talese, and Everyman's Library--; The Library of America; Cambridge University Press; Columbia University Press, Duke University Press; The Johns Hopkins University Press, The University of Chicago Press; Fordham University Press; Nebraska University Press; Princeton University Press; Stanford University Press; etc., just to name a few; plus the three-page Independent Press listing) of recent publications. And, because this particular issue is the Fall Book issue, the landscape is quite rich and textured even for the NYRB. Yes, I did smuggly engage in a few moments of self-congratulation as to the books I had read already. I did make mental notes of the books I had not yet read but owned and waiting to be read, as well as of the titles ordered but yet to arrive. Then . . . I stepped back and took in the larger landscape seeing all the the books not read by me, not owned by me, or not on yet even ordered for purchase by me. And I was--and still am-- overwhelmed. Overwhelmed not by the seemingly infinite number of books published which will go unread by me, but by the vast number books I would want, should want, and ought to want read if only I had the time. Yet, given the vastness of the landscape of the worthwhile printed word, there is not sufficient time to make a meaningul excursion into--let alone across the landscape. I am reminded of how poorly read I am. Reminded of the narrow limits of my education. I am reminded of Socrates. "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance." And I reminded of the fact of my own ignorance.