Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Old Friends and New Books

Michael has asked for a book called "How to Read a Book" by Charles Van Doren, for his birthday present. I plan on buying it for him. He may not know that a long time ago--probably the mid-seventies--I was at a party in Chicago where Charles Van Doren was one of the guests. There were six of us and we were having dinner in a very small apartment that belonged to a mutual friend. I remember sitting on the floor and wanting to listen to whatever Charles Van Doren had to say, because I knew he was smarter than I was. He is still smarter. We all know about the fact that he was the one caught cheating on the game show, and it seemed to be such a shame that he had that mark on his career. He is a very smart guy. He was also very handsome I thought. He worked at Encyclopedia Brittanica which was based in Chicago. The other thing I remember about that evening is that the apartment was so small that in order for someone to go into the bathroom, we all had to get up and move the table a little so the person would have room to open the door.

Charles Van Doren has another book called "A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future". I am going to get that one for myself. That book is described on Amazon: (From Library Journal)
Van Doren, once editorial director of the Encyclopedia Brittanica , has produced a miniature encyclopedia, organized to show that there is progress in knowledge. He praises Columbus for giving us "a world well on the way to the unity it experiences today." India is mentioned as the source of the caste system. The Chinese gave us Confucius, but Van Doren notes their main legacy seems to be good recipes for tyranny. He warns that some good knowledge is unpleasant: we must now control our technology. Ultimately, the best knowledge for him is Western scientific knowledge since it is cumulative, meaning that better theories nearly always replace worse ones. Van Doren has distilled the ideology of scientific progress into a neat, short drink that should win him a place on every library shelf. - Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, Canada

So, happy early birthday, Michael. I hope you had a good trip.

See you tomorrow.