<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A THESAURUS, A CONCORDANCE, AND TWO ATLASES WALK INTO A BAR 

The central tome in my bathroom library these days is a second-hand paperback copy of The Reader's Companion to World Literature. A sort of abridged literary encyclopedia, it includes brief entries, ranging in length from a few sentences to a few pages, on everything from noted authors and famous works to technical terms and historical periods.

Many of the entries are biographical sketches, and each of these opens according to a set format. The first line begins with the subject's name in bold, follows this with a phrase giving the subject's provenance and primary mode of expression, and ends with the subject's lifespan in parentheses. Only then does the essay begin in earnest.

Like this:
Joyce, James: Irish novelist (1882-1941). Joyce has exerted a profound influence on modern literature, though he wrote only six books--a slim volume of verse, a play, and four books of fiction.
Or this:
Sophocles: Greek dramatist (c. 496-406 B.C.). Sophocles was to the Greeks a kind of "tragic Homer," hailed as the favorite of the gods and honored by the state with sacrifices long after his death.
Got the general idea? Good. Now check out this one:
Bergson, Henri: French philosopher and psychologist, primary exponent of "psychological" time, which is subjective, as against clock-time, which (like calendar-time) represents arbitrary measurements of duration in the interest of conformity (1859-1941).
Not exactly a side-splitter, but "heh"-worthy in my book. Er, so to speak.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment