Thursday, December 6, 2007

Too Many Notes, Mozart

One of my favorite scenes from the splendid film Amadeus arrives when the ditsy emperor criticizes Mozart's music for having too many notes, which, when you consider the implications of Mozart's music, is like criticizing J.S. Bach for having two-part inventions when one would have sufficed.

Another moment came when, shortly after having set my earthly pole star on my aspiration of becoming a writer, the great American publisher, Alfred Knopf, announced with solemnity that too many books were being published. What gigantic hubris, I thought, the length and depth and breadth of his list notwithstanding. 

 Accordingly I rushed into print with reckless tantivy, contributing to the too many books footprint, dooming countless trees, a self-styled competitor to Joyce Carol Oates, thinking at one point in which I had completed and placed two novels within a six-weeks period, that I had made a dent. Indeed, a dent in the tree population.

But that, as Marlowe had a character say in The Jew of Malta, was in another city, and besides, the wench is dead.

Now, 2007, there are approximately three thousand new books being published each week. The aspens shiver, the editor groans, and the reader yawns. Too many books, indeed.

I am the happy discoverer of Barnaby Rich (1514-1617) a retired soldier and a popular writer of books for women. One of the problems attending Caxton's invention of movable type, Rich wrote, produced a sordid condition. "One of the diseases of this age is the multiplicity of books; they doth so overcharge the world that it is not able to digest the abundance of idle matter that is every day hatched and brought forth into the world."

There is nothing for it but for us to find ways, modern ways to be sure, in which we learn to cope with the abundance about us.

One such way is to set forth the time to vigorously pursue history. As my esteemed blog buddies The Individual Voice and Ilana (aka Smiler) have pointed out, blogging allows one to investigate one's own history, which is to my mind as good a way to begin as there is in this electronic Talmud we have at our disposal.

A significant function of written language is the platform it provides us with which to initiate this investigation.

1 comment:

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

"too many books" reminds me of another claim: "not enough reading". I find that one particularly amusing when i came across it in a 1901 french manual of style. french children were no longer reading enough to know how to write correctly worded letters to their grandparents, the preface intoned. And why was that? Because of the invention of the dreaded bicycle. Yes, the dreaded bicycle was taking french children away from their holiday homework and daily letters to "chère grand-maman"...such a frail little platform of common sense and logic we all inhabit, no wonder so many people fall off the edge regularly.