Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Reading

Two books stand out this holiday season. I bought the paperback of Richard Ford's latest, Canada, once I had reached Canada and was waiting in Ottawa for my connecting flight to Montreal.  I have been a Ford fan for a long time, ever since a friend in Edmonton told me to read Ford's excellent short story collection Rock Springs.  In that collection, or another one, Ford's characters live in Great Falls, as they do in this latest book.  Great Falls is a rough town in Montana, and I sometimes wonder if the people who live there are self-conscious about the fact that one of the greatest writers of our time uses their locale as both character and backdrop to his Chekovian tragedies.

The second book I have only just begun, but it is deeply satisfying and a bit decadent for me.  Rodrigo Quian Quiroga's Borges and Memory is a work of philosophy that examines an important intersection between science and art.  It revolves around a Borges story about a man (Funes) who has perfect memory.  The author examines Borges's notes made in the margins of his books to see just how much research into psychology and the science of memory he had made.  As it turned out, a great deal, and Borges anticipated current scientific findings in neuroscience a half a century before some of these recent discoveries were made.  This book is a bit like Jonathan Lehrer's Proust Was A Neuroscientist,  but the Borges book benefits from being written by an academic, a professor, working in the field about which he speaks.

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