I am a fast reader. Not that I read specially fast, but I read hours and hours, and that way books pile around my bed, under the bathroom's sink, into closets, and on tables, and I have read them.
I hve read the Dune series in a week. The whole works of Heinlein in 20 days. The Lord Of the Rings (and The Hobbit) in a long weekend.
I have been reading Quicksilver for a week now. I am not even 30% done.
Quicksilver is almost 1000 pages long. And they are not the easiest pages, either. I feel like I'm drowning in it, I am being slapped by it, my mind is being raped by a book.
I like it.
My university experience was studying maths, so I am more likely to enjoy this book than most, though.
When you are surrounded by science, if you have even a little of historic sense, you have to wonder: how can it be that I, a reasonably intelligent 20th century guy, have been getting an education for 20 years, and still am quite ignorant, even though I am concentrating on a single field?
Well, after that, if you ever try to do any original scientific work, you have to imagine that those who created modern science were much better than you. Their lifes were shorter, uglier, and they didn't have the books, yet they figured out a huge amount of stuff.
Usually, there's a mitigating factor in that the science they made is simpler than the science to be made now. That doesn't work for one guy. Maybe two.
That one guy is, of course, Newton. And the other is Leibnitz.
If someone invented Leibnitz for a novel, it would be silly. Inventing Newton would be preposterous. So, how come almost noone bothered making them into fictional characters before?
In taking that step, Stephenson shows genius.
I would write all this book brings to mind, but this blog is too small to contain it.
Right on! This is such a recursive reflection for me. I end up my deep thinking/reflection sessions heavily humbled, ashamed and even more quasi-motivated: I am both amazed and humbled by the excellence of the work of our ancestors. In any field of creativity. But by the beginning of the next deep thinking session, I realize I managed to get on with my rather subpar and dull uncreative life.
My inner opinion is that our ancestors were so much better _exactly_ because their lives were short, ugly and painful. Creativity _actually was_ a refuge. In our time, with all the "commodities" we've come to expect, not walking for more than 100 meters, not wanting to "waste time" on facing difficulties, but rather choosing the easy path (because in our times, we are given one, unlike our ancestors), makes us less creative. Unable to excell. Unwilling to sacrifice.
(BTW, thanks for serving me a nice recension to Quicksilver, which I planned 3-4 months ago to get and read, but I still didn't, because of not being willing to shed the $$$ requested for them - Quicksilver and Confusion - around here).
Well, on the other hand, "scientists" took 1700 years to stop feeling too humbled by Aristotle, so maybe it's just a matter of spunk ;-)
I was reading the other day a newspaper article written by someone who migrated to Kansas City. Lots of things he appreciated, but one thing shocked him every day:
You can't go anywhere, or do anything without a car. The closest store is 3 miles away. The ony way to get there is by highway. You can't walk there.
So, you just have to have a car.
But unless your family consists of siamese twins, you are not going together everywhere, so you need a car for each person.
How can a whole country (probably more than one, too) live such a horrible life of isolation nd waste, I have no idea.
But hey, I suppose they like having big screen TVs (note: this post is only 50% ironic ;-)