Posts Tagged Quotes

On Sentences, Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 Coverto form a sentence is to collapse many superposed wave functions to a single thought universe. Multiplying the lost universes word by word, we can say that each sentence extinguishes 10n universes, where n is the number of words in the sentence. Each thought condenses trillions of potential thoughts. Thus we get verbal overshadowing, where the language we use structures the reality we inhabit. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe this is why we need to keep making sentences.

–Kim Stanley Robinson, 2313

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On Books, from David Blight

I’ve started another YouTube history course, this time jumping from my fascination with pre-1500s history right into the rather more popular fascination of the US Civil War. This time around, the professor is David Blight of Yale, author of several books about slavery, the Civil War, and the experiences of freed slaves after the war. But this isn’t so much a post about history as it is to quote what he says about books early in the lecture series.

Now, I like to do a little ritual at the beginning of every class. If you’ll forgive me, it only takes me about ten seconds. But you know we live in a world where all of us in this room take books for granted. We throw books on the floor, we throw books at people, we load them in and out of our backpacks, we drop them here and drop them there, we lose them, we rip them up, we write all over them — I write all over mine. It’s only a few generations ago when there really weren’t any bookstores to go to. Your great-great-grandparents couldn’t meander a bookstore, to speak of, unless they lived in a special section of a special city. Books are precious things. A lot of them are assigned in this course. There’s short ones, little ones, big ones, syntheses, novels, monographs. Think of a book, just for a moment, and then you can forget this if you want. But think of a book, any book. It’s hard to think of a really bad book this way, but think of a good book, one of your favorite books ever, as like a newborn child, a newborn child brought into the world. A book. Probably a lot more planning and thought and design and construction, at least intellectually, goes into that book than goes into most babies. Books have a cover. They have beginnings, middles and ends. They’re somebody’s dream, they’re somebody’s creation. They never satisfy — just like people — but they’re in some ways the greatest things we have, and sometimes it’s nice to remind ourselves of that, in the places where we take them most for granted.

Professor Blight writes non-fiction. That doesn’t make what he says apply any less to those of us who write fiction. Or for those of us who read.

If you’d like this in the broader context of his lecture, I’ve embedded it below. His thoughts about writing are in and among he thoughts on history, revisionism, and whether the story of the past is more interesting than the interpretation of the past. The above quote starts around 15 minutes in.

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