23 July 2002

Common thread

Yesterday, two books arrived in my apartment that couldn't look much different physically.

The first is a magnum opus by Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It is massive. It's a book that should probably be measured by thickness or weight rather than page count. If you include the index and references and such, this sucker is well over 1,400 pages long.

I'm halfway through page 33. Wish me luck.

The other book to come in was a slim volume of poetry titled Eunoia by Christian Bök. I can't remember the exact page count, but even that's deceptive, since each page contains a single paragraph with a lot of white space. The concept of Eunoia is that each of the five chapters is written using only one vowel. You just gotta hear it read out loud; the effect is stunning.

What links these two books that look almost nothing alike? My favourite virtue: persistance. Gould mentions that he was working on his book for 20 years. (That he died so shortly after its publication makes you wonder if the desire to see the thing finally out in print was one of the things that kept him going against cancer.) Bök's task took seven years to finish. Bök probably invested more time per word than Gould!

And the moral of the story is: Do not stop and do not quit and do not give up.

No comments: