Showing due respect

Master of Flémalle (Robert Campin?), Anunciation (15th c.), Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels Scarcity makes everything more valuable. We make more efforts to preserve and protect that which is at risk of not being around anymore. Fragility and rarity. In our culture, we are not known to make a strong individual effort to preserve... Continue Reading →

360-degree mythology

Modern Mythology by Christopher Murphy, 2017 Humans are not rational, but they tend towards rationality, a famous sociologist once said. Our behaviour, and culture by implication, is not fashioned by facts, but by stories. A good story will always win over hard fact. The challenge is to marry fact to fiction. The two are customarily... Continue Reading →

The staring effect

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Dalì The enduring power of myths lies in their capacity for endless retelling. "Here, the boy, tired by the malaise of the century and his enthusiasm for the chase after meaning lies down, drawn to the grove by its look and by the fountain, something he'd never seen before. While... Continue Reading →

Escaping the catachresis

In one of the most influential texts of late antiquity, St Augustine points out that there are words whose roots are related to characteristics which are no longer valid for the usage the words are subjected to. In his De Doctrina Christiana written towards the end of the 4th century AD, he gives the example... Continue Reading →

Squeezed into existence

There’s more to a page than the words on it. There’s more to a word than the letters it is made up of. There’s more to a letter than the sound it stands for. Unless it’s a Kindle, the book page will always be more than the sum of its parts. The dualism of body... Continue Reading →

The genius of short form

The modern world is founded on very complex ideas which took centuries to emerge, develop and mature. That these ideas seem so obvious today to the point that their roots are often invisible to the naked eye is due not only to their success, but also to something that has been at work in the... Continue Reading →

One word, multiple experiences

There are many ways of reading, but they won’t lead to the same experience. Silent reading brings worlds through words to life, to be enjoyed secretely, to be cherished in the palace of one’s own mind. Social reading creates bonds of intellectual and emotional depth, the roots of a common language bursting out of the... Continue Reading →

Unsafe spaces

Books have always been unsafe spaces. Spaces of risk, a risk to others and to themselves. A risky book could and still can ruin a life, though a bad book will ruin a generation. A book may have ruined the Roman poet Ovid’s life. Words are dangerous, but books are explosive. The Reformation started as... Continue Reading →

Not everyone is ready

One who was ready- Salvador Dalì's Dante in Paradiso, where the laws of nature no longer hold sway. (1951-60) Some books are written before people are really ready for them. Before they are understood. Long before their impact can fully fan out and strike the minds and touch the hearts of readers. What has always... Continue Reading →

Solo sailing

Contrary to watching a film or a play, reading a book is a strictly solitary activity. And writing, especially the kind that is routinely described as creative, is equally solitary. Performative reading may work in groups, but that is a different type of reading from the one that we usually do in our culture. The... Continue Reading →

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