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Autobibliography: One

1980: The Clock, author unknown.

Books for very young children impart the comforting lesson that the world is full of friends, in particular inanimate friends. The clock thinks as you think, only more reliably; it will never miss an hour. It holds order, and therefore safety, pleasure, peace. Kant’s discussion of aesthetics in the Critique of Judgment is largely based on the observation that “the discovered unifiability of two or more empirically heterogeneous laws of nature under a principle that comprehends them both is a ground of very noticeable pleasure.” I like this because it lets you bridge science and art, and because it can account for why, when I was learning to read, my favorite book apparently consisted almost entirely of photographs of a clock face in different positions. The rage for order.

1981: Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss.

The rhymes were strange enough; but what was really mysterious was the ham itself. I don’t think I had ever seen a large hock of ham such as the drawing was supposed to represent, certainly not a green one, and the weird way that the plate of food remained constant, appearing on each page amid the successive scenes of chaos, seemed to point to something that I was too young to understand. The ostensible moral about not being a picky eater went right over my head. My insistence on finishing an umpteenth rereading delayed the trip to the hospital for my sister’s birth, with near-dire consequences.

1982: Comparisons, author unknown.

I have no clue how to search Amazon or Google for a title like this without getting several thousand results. In a lot of ways it was The Clock writ large: numerical measurements of various quantities in the natural world, with lots of helpful illustrations of scale. The size of a paramecium was compared to the size of a mite, a human, a blue whale, a dinosaur; the Fahrenheit scale was plotted against not only Celsius and Kelvin, but also the exotic Réaumur and Rankine, which didn’t seem to exist outside the pages of that book. It was always the tangential that was most fascinating. A table of metric system prefixes began with the mysterious peta- and ended in the enigmatic atto-; lists of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons trailed off into lumps of rock with only numbers for names. I would have lived on them if I could.

 

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2005.11.19 =>

up (2005.11)

The Warm South
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