25 Followers
40 Following
piiskoor

Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

McGlue
Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood - James Gleick Couple thoughts, 50 or so pages in:

--Listen, it's damned impressive not just to zero in on the rise of information as a theory but to grapple with a comprehensive history of information. (Chapter one--African drumming as an early method of encoding bits of information... Like Michener writing one of his doorstoppers, Gleick will grapple with recent history via a relentlessly thorough examination of deep history.) I'm going to offer up a couple of initial complaints that have me leery of the next 450 or something pages, but this guy has some guts.

--Complaint #1: Chapter 2, Gleick cites Walter Ong on the difficulties literate cultures have imagining orality -- likening the attempt to an automobile culture always envisioning the horse through the lens of the car, as pre-automotive rather than something else entirely. Ironically, I'd already begun a rough diagnosis of the same symptoms here; Gleick's focus on information theory cannot help but see every element of the past on a linear evolutionary path leading up to the now. (Stephen J. Gould used to complain about such accounts of evolution as "just-so stories.") On the one hand, this can be quite enlightening -- drums, orality vs. literacy, the deep history of all media via their shared attempt to process and dissimenate information. On the other hand, it's so rough-hewn, so Big-Picture and rushed, that the reductiveness can really stick in the craw as just such a just-so story.

--Complaint # 2: ...so Big-Picture and rushed. It's like a lecture -- delightful in its reach and coordination of so much detail, yet to0 neatly encapsulated, too intent on connecting the dots and less on fleshing out the depth of field. I see a couple of other reviews here suggesting readers would be better off just reading more in-depth studies of the disparate histories and theories he touches upon more glancingly. . . and I'm already feeling that. ('Though, again, there's something to be said for someone sketching so broad a thematic arc.)

It is readable, but never really delightful. (Contra, say, Gould at his best--who could really dazzle as a writer as well as with his thinking.)

So, onward, ever onward. But I'd thought I'd just sit and plow through this for a couple weeks, but now I'm thinking that approach will make me hate the book, so I'm going to read a bit more and take it in chunks.