In others' words...

About the name: it doesn't have any direct significance. I loved the word the first time i encountered it (in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel "The War of the End of the World"). Heresy has always seemed more interesting to me than orthodoxy, though most heresy is just another orthodoxy awaiting canonisation. The real heresy has no priests, no leaders, no heresiarch at all.

About the blog: For as long as i can remember i have felt like a person without ideas of my own, in the sense that any ideas or concepts that mattered to me seemed to have been enunciated first by others.

Nonetheless i have often felt that there was some sort of "meme set" of these ideas that added up to a unique intellectual identity, a kind of map of my mind. And that if someone were to read what i'd read they would inevitably be reconstructing me in some form. Obviously an atheist's fantasy of afterlife and and silly withal: two readers reading the same book read a different book, just as two photographers photographing the same street photograph a different world. We can read unmarked copy but even so some passages will be underlined by our moral values, our aesthetics.

Still, whimsically, I had it in mind to try to enumerate this map in a website, perhaps as a interconnected dictionary of concepts or authors or philosophies or something. I made a lot of notes but never began to write.

This blog is in someways a successor to that idea, less ambitious in every aspect: not written by me, it is only the words of others; not inter-connected, it is not a map; not limited to ideas, it includes pieces which i like merely as writing.

In my early twenties, at about the same time as i was reading "The War of the End of the World" it occurred to me that reading was an activity that was, consciously or unconsciously, incredibly selective. We have perhaps 60 years of reading if we are fortunate and outside of academia or the literary world we are unlikely to read more than a couple of books per week, for most people much less. 52 times 60 times 2 is 6240 books.

It sounds a lot. It is a lot. But there are tens of thousands of books published every year and millions already published. In one sense we are already readers in Borges' Library of Babel. Whatever path you take through the written word will be more or less unique to you and more or less a drop in the bucket of human writing.

I decided early on to try to be selective in what i read, rejecting the temptation to read solely for enjoyment or to read all the works of an author once one book had captured me. In academic terms i'm not widely read, i haven't come close to reading 2 books a week or even the equivalent of two books a week in other formats. But i have had the pleasure to read a lot of good books.

For this blog i intend to revisit all the books that i still have in my possession, those that i remember thinking highly of, and excerpting a passage from each one. This is an exercise purely for me but if anyone should look over my shoulder and be drawn to an author previously unknown to them i would be delighted.

When they poured across the border

Shortly after dawn on 10 April, Zapata

People don't read the morning newspaper

Light years are interchangeable

It smells of sweat, chili and onions

Finally the monkey might

High up above the crowd

In temple architecture

You can live longer if you avoid death

Not the attendance of stones

Perceptions of power during the crisis

Was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this

To lie in bed, to give way

When they first worked together

His explanation was very elusive

Until one night that voice rose

This town is filled with echoes

Flay began to untie his boots

On the other hand

She had come from the coast

The details of my life are quite inconsequential.

All too often education

When you are attached to your desire

No regrets, Coyote

He said that journeys involving the company of the dead were notorious for their difficulty

We have some influence over how long we can delay human extinction

I shan't risk trying to predict

Consider what happened in Borneo in the 1950's

The fact that I, a chemist

Changing moral codes is always costly

Pugg sat down next to the barrel

Sometimes I look at this woman,

But though a shot had killed the rabbit

The paranoid spokesman

Author of the Civil War

Monks, the All is aflame

At two in the afternoon I set off

Wall Street, in recent times,

Let the Power Fall

What should we make of all this?

The genuflection toward "fairness"

When I married Edgar Strasser-Mendana

In the chapters that follow, I will attempt to explain consciousness

It was almost always the foreman

Her voice is filled with distant sonorities

Evil is never intended as evil

Diodorus, a native of central Sicily

I have the impression that this isn't the first time I've found myself in this situation

How Fortunate The Man With None

This truth destroys the veracity of my story

The Death of La Nan M.

I fell into a sickly sleep

Then he remembered Slade's aircraft

Awareness is a process

If you go to Asia

When Diane Arbus died

I met Clarisa when i was an adolescent

Suppose that we agree to stay away

About this blog

In Pakistan I discovered the full force of religious faith