Lethe allows us oblivion of our former experience and happiness, but also of our prejudices and sorrows.
since he had read the Word, the Word was now lodged inside him, even if he had not met the Author; that he had become the Book, the Word made flesh, through that little bit of the divine that the craft of reading allows to all those who seek to learn the secrets held by a page.
In the essay “Notes on What I’m Looking For,” Georges Perec proposes that his writings orbit around four preoccupations or targets for inquiry: the quotidian, introspection, games, and fictions. These are certainly illustrated in the slim book of essays Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books, named after the second-longest selection in the volume.
Perec is known for his association with OuLiPo, a group of writers using ludic constraints to produce texts, and an example of that engagement is in the book’s final and longest piece, “Think/Classify,” which has subheadings lettered in conspicuously non-alphabetic sequence. It’s not until the penultimate section W (directly following K) that he discloses the series to be the order of the appearance of the alphabet in a chapter of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller ….
This book reads quickly and offers a lot of variety while keeping to its central themes. The essays are structured unconventionally, and even when they address rather routine topics (e.g. a “bucket list” in “Some of the Things I Really Must Do Before I Die”) they have surprising and entertaining details (e.g. “Get drunk with Malcolm Lowry”).
The past (the tradition that leads to our electronic present) is, for the Web user, irrelevant, since all that counts is what is currently displayed. Compared to a book that betrays its age in its physical aspect, a text called up on the screen has no history. Electronic space is frontierless. Sites-that is to say, specific, self-defined homelands-are founded on it but neither limit nor possess it, like water on water. The Web is quasi-instantaneous; it occupies no time except the nightmare of a constant present. All surface and no volume, all present and no past, the Web aspires to be (advertises itself as) every user’s home, in which communication is possible with every other user at the speed of thought. That is its main characteristic: speed.