Readers’ Corner: Every Book, Ever

You always hear people complaining about there being just not enough time to read all the books out there. Just too much on the shelves to get to in this lifetime. Not the worst thing to have to complain about, of course, but still, frustrating—even if you’re not Burgess Meredith after the apocalypse.

So here’s the question: Has that always been the case? Was there a time at which one could have actually read every single book that had been written? (For the sake of this exercise, we’re limiting it to English-language titles.) Fortunately, there’s always a numbers guy out there working just about any conceivable problem, so now we may have an answer:

According to the site what if?:

If we estimate that during their active periods, writers are producing somewhere between 0.1 and 1 word per minute, then one dedicated reader might be able to keep up with a population of about 500 or 1,000 active writers … the date at which there were too many English books to read in a lifetime—happened sometime before the population of active English writers reached a few hundred. At that point, catching up became impossible.

The magazine Seed estimates that the total number of authors reached this point around the year 1500 and has continued rising rapidly ever since. The number of active English writers crossed this threshold shortly thereafter, around the time of Shakespeare, and the total number of books in English probably passed the lifetime reading limit sometime in the late 1500s.

So there you have it. It’s been a few centuries since reading everything out there was even possible. So if you can’t finish the complete works of Joyce Carol Oates in this lifetime (and, honestly, who could—as she publishes at the rate most people read), well, just hope for reincarnation.

New on DVD: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Alexis Denisof  and Amy Acker play Benedick and Beatrice in Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing'
Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker play Benedick and Beatrice in Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

muchadoaboutnothing-dvdThe best of this week’s DVD releases comes to us courtesy of Joss Whedon. His bright and sparkling black-and-white adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing differs from most other takes on Shakespeare’s comedies for actually being…funny.

My full review is at Film Journal International:

While cleaving away some of Shakespeare’s more dragging plot points, Whedon hews to the original text. He also lets the plot breathe and move at its own quick pace, trusting the audience not to require the anxious pushiness of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version…

You can watch the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Alexis Denisof  and Amy Acker play Benedick and Beatrice in Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing'
Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker play Benedick and Beatrice in Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

much-ado-about-nothing-posterWhen Joss Whedon finished with his 2012 megahit The Avengers, he had some time off. How to fill that time? Well, obviously, make another movie! He brought a passel of actors over to his Spanish-style mansion and spent a few weeks filming a modern-dress, black-and-white adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing on his own dime. The result is a superbly fresh and winsome comedy that opens on Friday.

My full review is at Film Journal International; here’s part of it:

While cleaving away some of Shakespeare’s more dragging plot points, Whedon hews to the original text. He also lets the plot breathe and move at its own quick pace, trusting the audience not to require the anxious pushiness of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version. This refusal to juice the material with gimmickry pays out handsomely, as Whedon’s crackerjack cast, drawn mainly from his troupe of TV actors, spins as fine a web of delicate comedy as will grace movie screens this year…

My interview with Whedon ran last year; you can read that here.

You can watch the trailer here:

DVD Tuesday: ‘Where Do We Go Now?’

 

Filmmakers run all kinds of risks when they try to update the classics; for all the universality of some of the great dramas, they can fail miserably when downloaded into new and sometimes incompatible formats (witness what happens when studios try to dress up Austen and Shakespeare as candy-colored high school comedies). Nadine Labaki’s zesty Where Do We Go Now? has to navigate two minefields: updating Aristophanes’s Lysistrata and setting this comedy amidst modern Lebanon’s murderous religious strife. The result isn’t a new classic, but stands nevertheless as a potent and lively satire about how the violence of men tears societies down and the lengths to which women go to staunch the bleeding…

The Oscar-nominated Where Do We Go Now? comes out today on DVD. My full review is at AMC Movie Database.

 

Quote of the Day: Martin Amis

 

Martin Amis, barbed-pen satirist of the modern era and boon companion of the late Christopher Hitchens (with whom he shared a sharp impatience with lazy thinking), has taken it on the chin from the press and the literati in his home country of England for years now. Hard to say why, perhaps it was that habit of speaking his mind. But in any case, when Amis decamped from London to Brooklyn to set up home there with his (American) wife, the sniping started all over again.

In The New Republic, Amis — whose newest novel, Lionel Asbo: State of England, comes out August 21 — has a few things to say on the cult of the author and the attribution of false statements:

Backed up by lavish misquotes together with satirical impersonations … the impression given was that I was leaving because of a vicious hatred of my native land and because I could no longer bear the well-aimed barbs of patriotic journalists.

“I wish I weren’t English”: Of all the fake tags affixed to my name, this is the one I greet with the deepest moan of inanition. I suggest that the remark—and its equivalent in any language or any alphabet—is unutterable by anyone whose IQ reaches double figures. “I wish I weren’t North Korean” might make a bit of sense, assuming the existence of a North Korean sufficiently well-informed and intrepid to give voice to it. Otherwise and elsewhere, the sentiment is inconceivably null. And to say it of England—the country of Dickens, George Eliot, Blake, Milton, and, yes, William Shakespeare—isn’t even perverse. It is merely whimsical.