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Addendum: Libraries, Scholars, Words

In discussing memes in The Information, I quoted Daniel Dennett’s clever remark that a scholar is just a library’s way of making another library. If I had read Austerlitz, W. G. Sebald’s great and final novel, I would have added this:  

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Metaphors of Time: 1850

Whilst pondering metaphors of time, I happened upon a novel published in 1850 with the title, The Mistake of a Life-Time: or, the Robber of the Rhine Valley. A Story of The Mysteries of the Shore, and The Vicissitudes of … Continue reading

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“She Was a Courier in the City”

That venerable carrier of information, the bike messenger, must surely be going obsolete. The reasons are obvious. Anyway, people have been saying so for twenty years. William Gibson, as ever, has had a more complex view of what the future … Continue reading

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March of time, arrow of time, time warp …

This is the kind of thing that’s buzzing through my head as I work on the next book. (It’s an N-gram, computed on the fly by Google here, from the contents of all the books they [in some cases illegally] … Continue reading

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The Zone of Uncertainty (What Pope Francis Said)

Everybody has an opinion or a summary or an interpretation of the interview with Pope Francis, and this is the last place you’d come for more, but one part resonates especially powerfully for me. It’s when he talks about uncertainty … Continue reading

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Why Must an Author Twit?

I’m reading with the greatest pleasure Zoo Time, the latest novel by Howard Jacobson. The narrator is an author called Guy Ableman, and one of its subjects is the parlous state of publishing today. In this scene, Ableman meets with … Continue reading

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The OED Redefines “Information” Yet Again

The entry for information in the Oxford English Dictionary always makes good reading. It’s substantial: close to 10,000 words long. I see it has changed again. The last time I looked, the Number One definition was “The imparting of incriminating knowledge.” Excellent! As … Continue reading

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Wikipedia’s Women Problem

There is consternation at Wikipedia over the discovery that hundreds of novelists who happen to be female were being systematically removed from the category “American novelists” and assigned to the category “American women novelists.” Amanda Filipacchi, whom I will call … Continue reading

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