Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"There's more to life than books, you know..."

I was participant in a conversation over on LibraryThing that touched on the question of, well, how many books is enough? How many books do you think you're ever going to get around to reading?

The conversation moved on before I could recall enough of the following anecdote to cite it (or even find it: but, yay Google) - but at the time I was vaguely reminded of a factoid that I eventually tracked down to Diana Trilling's obit in the New York Times, October 25, 1996 (this is snipped and re-arranged - and I should learn how to do 'block-quote'):

"I graduated from Radcliffe without having read a line of Homer or Dante or Chaucer, without knowing anything of Shakespeare," she said.

Diana Trilling's career as a critic began in 1941, at the age of 36, when she overheard a telephone conversation between her husband and Margaret Marshall, the literary editor of The Nation, who had called to ask if he could recommend someone to write the magazine's literary notes column. When her husband hung up, Mrs. Trilling looked at him and offered herself for the position.

She began writing in 1941 and never stopped.

At one point, as a critic for The Nation, Mrs. Trilling read a novel a day for six and a half years, delivering challenging reviews on some of the most important works of the modern era: Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men," Jean-Paul Sartre's "Age of Reason" and George Orwell's "1984." {end NYT quote}

Assuming that's literally true: six and a half years @ one per day = 2374 books. (two leap years makes it an even number....)

Now note that Trilling lived to be 95, so ten times that number of books is certainly possible.

How many people here have had periods when they've read a book a day?

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