Books, blogs, etc.

by Yule Heibel on July 11, 2004

According to a recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts, Literary Reading Is Declining Faster Than Before. The report puts the emphasis on literary, which would seem to exclude the non-fiction reading material I prefer.

What category does Sebald’s Die Ringe des Saturn fall into? Or Austerlitz? Definitely fiction, literary writing, I would think.

But what about Luftkrieg und Literatur? (See this page for a review of the English translation.) Is it literary or history or both?

How do you classify imagination, and who can say that history can be written by those without it?

At any rate, if you stop blogging and reading blogs and stay away from your computer for a while, you will read more books. Those books by Sebald were not the books I’ve been reading recently: Saturn is on the “to read” list, and the other two I read ages ago. It’s just that I often have to reach that far for fiction, I guess. For a brilliant non-fiction read, try Margaret Wertheim’s The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace.


maria July 11, 2004 at 7:05 pm

Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn” is one of my favorite books. Time and transmigration seem to be the subjects … but read it for yourself. Lucky you, you get to read it in the original!

There is a fascinating passage (among many other fascinating passages) in which Sebald’s narrator stops in at Michael Hamburger’s house (translator of Celan, among others) and relays this (rather ingeniously – without using quotations or any over indication of a shift in the narrating “I”)) from Michael:

“For days and weeks on end one racks one’s brains to no avail, and, if asked, once could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one know not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane. Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the perceived degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see the increasing complexity of our mental constructs as a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.”

Yule Heibel July 11, 2004 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for the pointer, Maria. I know I’ve seen you mention Rings of Saturn on your blog, too. It’s one of those books that’s been kicking around the house for a couple of years now, and I haven’t gotten to it (my husband has read it a couple of times). Austerlitz was amazing, and the airwars thing was relentless, but bearable, in a feeling-intellectual way. He’s a terrific writer. Was.

But now you have to read Margaret Wertheim — Pearly Gates and/ or Pythagoras’ Trousers, start with either one. She is fantastic.

maria July 12, 2004 at 2:37 am

You know, Yule, I think I have read Werheim’s Peraly Gates and have also skimmed through Pythagoras’ Trousers (the book I mean … for I wouldn’t want to imply anything imporper here), but remember little from either book.

I should go through my various shelves and see if I still have these books around….

Thanks for the pointer, too!

Anonymous August 25, 2005 at 3:04 am

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