June 11, 2007

A Note on the Bibliography

Filed under: Self indulgence — duncan @ 8:13 pm

This is almost certainly a terrible idea – but I’ve always been a sucker for scholarly apparatus, so my blog’s going to have a bibliography.

I think I’ll divide it (as all bibliographies should be divided) into books I’ve actually read and books I’ve, you know, sort of read. I’ve yet to find a way to distinguish between books I’m currently reading, and books I’ve abandoned forever. As far as I’m concerned, if there’s a bookmark half-way through the book, I’m still reading it. (When you buy bookmarks from Transport for London, you can also use them as tube tickets!) So books of whatever stage of incompletion will all be filed under a single catch-all heading.

But what is completion? What is reading? Wittgenstein: “the same thing may take place in the consciousness of the pupil who is ‘pretending’ to read, as in that of the practised reader who is ‘reading’”. (Another scalp for the bibliography). Have I ‘read’ Keynes’s General Theory? Not if, by reading, you mean actually understanding what it says. My eyes pass over a slew of mathematical symbols, without the smallest flicker of comprehension – this is not reading. But if, by reading, you mean fully comprehending the work, in all its subtleties and implications, then who, if we’re honest, can ever be said to have read anything at all? I’ve looked at almost every character in Keynes’s General Theory (save a couple of the bleaker appendices). For the purposes of the bibliography, then, I’ve read it.

What are the bibliography’s purposes? First, it has some sort of dubious reference function. You can use it for whatever people use bibliographies for (fact checking, or something). Second (like published lists of local paedophiles) it’s a spur to good behaviour. Perhaps it’ll force me to actually read some relevant books, by showing you that I haven’t, yet. Third, it gives the lie to my more specious displays of pseudo-erudition. When (for instance) I quote Alfred Marshall’s ‘Principles of Economics’, if you actually care enough to look at the bibliography you’ll see that I’ve not read even a little bit of Marshall, and so I must be taking the quote from some bluffers’ guide or other. (Of course if I was serious about this I’d tell you straight off in the body of the text; but candour has its limits). Fourth, it satisfies my Nick Hornby-esque desire for list-making. And, fifth and finally, it’s a slightly pathetic way of showing off. In my utopia, ‘pretentious’ is a term of approbation.

You can refer to the bibliography at an easy glance by using the categories buttons over on the right there. The dates are of first publication, even if it’s the nth revised edition, but publisher = publisher of my copy. I’ll only include books that I refer to or steal from. You can therefore, if you wish, imagine a vast delta of scholarly sediment surrounding this feeble flow.

And why isn’t the bibliography longer? Why isn’t it growing faster? Because I’ve got to work for a fucking living. Jesus. Give me a break.

1 Comment

  1. […] Bibliography Filed under: Bibliography — praxisblog @ 8:12 pm Explanatory notes and justifications see above. […]

    Pingback by Bibliography « Praxis — June 11, 2007 @ 8:16 pm

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