Friday, February 24, 2006

what matters is the book the data's in

I do a "Friday Quotation" for the blog I run at work. I'm cross-posting this week's provocation from William Gass:
Michael Dirda's review essay in last Sunday's Washington Post quotes book-lover William Gass on what he sees as the decline of libraries.

Says Gass, quoted by Dirda:
A book can be a significant event in the history of your reading, and your reading (provided you are significant) should be an essential segment of your character and your life. . . . In this country, we are losing, if we have not lost, any appreciation for what we might call 'an intellectual environment.' . . . Libraries have succumbed to the same pressures that have overwhelmed the basic cultural functions of museums and universities . . . so that now they devote far too much of their restricted space, and their limited budget, to public amusement, and to futile competition with the Internet. It is a fact of philistine life that amusement is where the money is. . . . Of course libraries contain books, and books contain information, but information has always been of minor importance, except to minor minds. The information highway has no destination, and the sense of travel it provides is pure illusion. What matters is how the information is arranged, how it is understood, and to what uses it is going to be put. In short, what matters is the book the data's in.

Here's a link to Dirda's piece on Gass:

Michael Dirda
William Gass celebrates high art and decries the crush of mediocrity.
Sunday, February 19, 2006; Page BW15
By William H. Gass
Knopf. 418 pp. $26.95

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