“Books are published at such a rapid rate that they make us exponentially more ignorant,” writes Gabriel Zaid in a little book titled, SO MANY BOOKS, READING AND PUBLISHING IN AN AGE OF ABUNDANCE.
“Why read? And why write?” he questions.
Published in 2003 by Paul Dry Books, the work captures a rare blend of practicality and wisdom. And his thoughts are perhaps more relevant today than even then.
He proposes that if a person were to read a book a day, he would be neglecting to read four thousand others published the same day, meaning his ignorance would grow four thousand times faster than his knowledge. The solution to the dilemma, he suggests, is to be aware of our ignorance, to fully accept it to go from being simply ignorant to being consciously ignorant.
What matters is not how many thousands of books we read, but “how we feel, how we see, what we do after reading; whether the street and the clouds and the existence of others mean anything to us; whether reading makes us, physically, more alive.
“Culture is conversation”, Zaid says. “But the written word, that dry husk of speech, doesn’t have to supplant speech. It can fortify it, or fertilize it. As dead matter, it can either suffocate life or nourish it, kill or invigorate…
“If books don’t encourage us to live life to the fullest, they are dead. The inertness of the printed word is not a failing of print but a failing of life,” he says.
“In championing books that matter to us, we can’t restrict ourselves to increasing sales, printings, number of titles, news, cultural events, job s, costs, and all other measurable quantities. The important thing is creative vitality, which we can sense if not measure; it lets us know when we’re headed in the right direction, although there are no set rules for encouraging it.”
Modern culture “thrives on independent revelation; the reading of the thing itself revealing its meaning to the reader.
“Culture is conversation and the role of the intermediary is to shape that conversation and give new meaning to readers; lives simply by helping them find the books they need to read,” writes Zaid.
In only 140 pages, Zaid offers us insight after insight. For example, he reminds us that “…those that impoverish conversation instead of enriching it will encounter difficulties inherent in the very nature of books.”
SO MAY BOOKS is one little book that will enrich those of us who love literature.
About the Author
Gabriel Zaid’s poetry, essays, social and cultural criticism, and business writings have been widely published throughout the Spanish-speaking world. He lives in Mexico City with the artist Basia Batorska, her paintings, three cats, and ten thousand books.