(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Borges

“In order for a book to exist, it is sufficient that it be possible. Only the impossible is excluded.”*…

One of your correspondent’s daily pleasures is Rusty Foster‘s newsletter, Today in Tabs. Here, an especially pleasing excerpt…

In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story called “The Library of Babel.” If you haven’t read it, or if it’s been a while, go read it now. It’s only eight pages. If that’s all this email accomplishes for you today, I’ll consider it a success.

In its finite but innumerable books, Borges’ Library contains every possible arrangement of letters. In 2015 Jonathan Basile made LibraryofBabel.info, a website that not only accomplishes this but is even searchable. Here’s one of the 10²⁹ pages that just say “today in tabs.” Here’s the last line of The Great Gatsby. Can you find it? If not, don’t worry, it shows up embedded in 29³¹⁴¹ more pages of gibberish. How about this page? It implicitly existed before I searched for it, which I find kind of upsetting.

But as interesting/disturbing as the Library’s content is, I’m also fascinated by the physical structure of it. Picture a cross between “The Name of Rose” and “House of Leaves.” A sort of infinite scriptorium designed by bees

Enlightened, solitary, infinite, perfectly unmoving, armed with precious volumes, pointless, incorruptible, and secret: “The Library of Babel,” from @fka_tabs.

See also “Visit The Online Library of Babel: New Web Site Turns Borges’ “Library of Babel” Into a Virtual Reality, source of the image above.

* Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”

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As we check it out, we might send thoughtfully and warmly observed birthday greetings to David John Lodge; he was born on this date in 1935. An author, critic, and professor of literature, he has written 18 novels, a baker’s dozen works of nonfiction (plus two memoirs), three plays, and four teleplays. He’s probably best remembered for his wonderful “Campus Trilogy” – Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses (1975), Small World: An Academic Romance (1984) and Nice Work (1988), the second two of which were each shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries”*…

 

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

 

Jonathan Basile, a Brooklyn author and Borgesian Man of the Book, taught himself programming so that he could recreate Borges’ Universal Library [the Library of Babel, which “contained all books”] as a website. The results are confounding. A true site-as-labyrinth, Basile’s creation is an attempt to write and publish every story conceivable (and inconceivable) to man. In the process, Basile encountered new philosophical conundrums, French rappers, and unheard-of porno search strings. The possibilities, after all, are endless…

Browse the Universal Library here; read more of Basile’s prodigious project here.

* Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel” [“La Biblioteca de Babel”]

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As we renew our Library cards, we might recall that it was on this date in 1667 that John Milton sold the rights to Paradise Lost to printer/publisher Samuel Simmons for £10.  Milton, who’s worked for Cromwell, was on the outs in those early days of the Restoration.  (Indeed, Simmons kept his name off the title page [below], naming only his sellers.)

That original edition was structured into 10 sections (“books”).  Milton revised his work and reordered it into 12 books, the form we know today; it was published in the year of his death, 1674.  While his motive may well have been, as some critics have suggested, to emulate the structure of Virgil’s Aeneid, a second payday probably also figured in.

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April 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines…”*

 

From  the New School of Architecture and Design, “Failure by Design”– an infographic that charts major architectural blunders through the ages…   Visit the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Tower of Pisa, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and other famously ill-conceived constructions for explications of the miscalculations at work and the lessons they teach.

Click here (and again) for an enlarged version of the full graphic; read about the project here and here.

* Frank Lloyd Wright

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As we take up our t-squares, we might send exquisitely-wrought birthday greetings to the architect of “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges; he was born on this date in 1899.  An accomplished poet, essayist, and translator, Borges is of course best remembered for his short stories.  In reaction to 19th century Realism and Naturalism, Borges blended philosophy and fantasy to create an altogether new kind of literary voice.  Indeed, critic Angel Flores credits Borges with founding the movement that Flores was the first to call “Magic Realism.”

There’s no need to build a labyrinth when the entire universe is one.

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August 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone”*…

Calvin Seibert (Box Builder on Flickr) explains his commitment to his ephemeral craft…

Building “sandcastles” is a bit of a test. Nature will always be against you and time is always running out. Having to think fast and to bring it all together in the end is what I like about it.

I rarely start with a plan, just a vague notion of trying to do something different each time. Once I begin building and forms take shape I can start to see where things are going and either follow that road or attempt to contradict it with something unexpected.

In my mind they are always mash-ups of influences and ideas. I see a castle, a fishing village, a modernist sculpture, a stage set for the oscars all at once.

When they are successful they don’t feel contained or finished. They become organic machines that might grow and expand. I am always adding just one more bit and if time allowed I wouldn’t stop.

See more of Calvin’s modernist monuments to mutability here.  Then check out SpongeBob SquarePants‘ “Sandcastles in the Sand.”

[TotH to Colossal]

* Jorge Luis Borges

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As we gather a collection of rectangular pails, we might spare a thought for Sir James Dewar; he died on this date in 1923.  A distinguished chemist and physicist (Dewar was an expert on the liquefaction of the “permanent gases,” conducting his work at temperatures approaching absolute zero), he is probably best remembered as the inventor, in 1892, of the “Dewar flask,” a vacuum-insulated vessel that can keep liquids at hot or cold temperatures for long periods.   The first commercial vacuum flasks were made in 1904 by a German company, Thermos GmbH, which patented Dewar’s work (as he had not).  Dewar sued to recover his invention, but lost.  “Thermos” remains a registered trademark in some countries; but– in a 1963 decision that sent chills down spines at Kleenex (Kimberley-Clark) and Xerox– it was declared a genericized trademark in the US,  since it has come to be synonymous with vacuum flasks in general.

Sir James Dewar

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March 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”*…

 

From Babel…

The Library of Babel, “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges

In Borges’s classic story, the entire universe is a library, a infinite labyrinth, which contains all books — that is, every possible ordering of letters and symbols, so that one full book of gibberish might differ from another only in the placement of a single comma. “Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me,” Borges’s narrator muses at the story’s end, “but I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.” Sigh.

… to Buffy…

Sunnydale High Library, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

At the other end of the cultural spectrum (but then again, maybe not really), sits the Sunnydale High Library, squarely on top of a Hellmouth. Don’t let that scare you away, though! This place has every book you’ll ever need on vampires, spirits, demons and beyond, and happens to be staffed by a very winsome librarian. There’s also a book cage full of weapons, just in case.

…”The Best Fictional Libraries in Pop Culture.”

* Jorge Luis Borges

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As we renew our library cards, we might recall that it was on this date in 1829 that Henry Trumbull registered (officially published) his biography of Robert Voorhis (1770-1832), an African American slave who later became a recluse in Massachusetts:

LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF
ROBERT,
THE
HERMIT OF MASSACHUSETTS,
Who has lived 14 Years in a Cave, secluded from human society.
COMPRISING,
An account of his Birth, Parentage, Sufferings, and
providential escape from unjust and cruel Bondage
in early life–and his reasons for becoming
a Recluse.
Taken from his own mouth, and published for his benefit.

PROVIDENCE:
Printed for H. TRUMBULL
— 1829 Price 12 1-2 Cents

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 31, 2013 at 1:01 am

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