Posted by: ken98 | September 14, 2009

Layers (part 1)

Day 2 Ken Here

Its really late, and I still have half the Introduction to go, but at this point it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Somehow seeing an Introduction with “cvi” pages (yes, the roman numerals have started) seems less daunting than 106 pages – but maybe thats just me.  I’m really bad at estimating time, and reading takes forever because I love to underline and annotate – another reason NOT to have a collectors edition.

Gibbon in Penguin

Gibbon in Penguin

This is the before picture of my Gibbon – before it travels in my backpack and gets mangled and noted to death. It was in a pile next to a bunch of other books I like – all by Umberto Eco.

His Six Walks in the Fictional Woods opened my eyes to the layers of readers and story tellers found in any story: the actual reader, the writer, the narrator, the characters speaking, past scenes/people described by characters, stories of people told in past scenes described by characters – it goes deeper and deeper. It is the subtle, magical skeleton of a piece of fiction that helps suspend our disbelief and allows us to enter the story.

It is also one criticism of history as a science, and a difficult problem.

We will have many layers in our own blog narrative – first the readers of this blog, second, ourselves, Mark and Ken writing, third, Gibbon himself, fourth, the people who gathered the source materials Gibbon used, fifth, the people who wrote the narratives themselves, and sixth the people acting in the narratives, who themselves will be telling stories about even more people. Even in this simple chain, the reader is seven layers away from the person who witnessed the event.

Knowing the background and prejudices of the storyteller can help disentangling the intertwined viewpoints in the layers of a story – and to that end I want to write briefly about my own leanings. If i had a tag cloud hovering about my head, some of the tags would say (in no particular order – its a cloud, remember?): “gym”, “computer programmer”, “liberal”, “ex-cpa,mba”, “gay”, “former-history-graduate-student”, “biker”, “movie-goer”, and more.

Well.. enough for now – still haven’t really started – but I guess I’m on my way.



  1. It’s occurred to me I better pick up a box of multi-hued highlighters for you. I’ve seen how you “consume” literature and textbooks. Dog ears are just a titillation to your post-it orgy!

    Oh, I like Umberto Eco, too. Does Gibbon blot out certain place names in Rise and Fall, too?

    • Nah – if anything Gibbon tries to be as transparent as possible when it comes to verifiable facts like a location – and, yes, any highlighter contributions are always greatly apprectiated – I’m pretty sure Eco deliberately freely slides between absolute veracity and total fabrication – just to keep us on our toes – and remind us that every idea we have is a symbol in our heads – probably only of other symbols – he sounds a lot like a neo-existentialist to me.

  2. What? It is still 44 B.C.? I’ve, like, had two breakfasts and ordered several bike parts. Seemed to me that “Roots” even went a little faster. I am kidding, of course. I have no memory of “Roots” other than it was a time when the adults left me alone for longer than normal. The good news? I will leave far fewer comments on the blog soon. The other good news? From the picture above, I now know you hide your money behind giant, impenetrable volumes of books. OK, almost done. Tags? Ken, you would have one more tag – “crazy-smart-and-kind-brother-whose-little-brother-never-left-him-alone-to-read-his-huge-books-in-peace”. Whoops, and I guess I still don’t. I think I am done. Again, very happy to see this blog – makes me happy. Go!

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