Saturday, March 08, 2014

The observation of our observing

Alberto Manguel in the NYT on the aftermath of his stroke last year and what it showed him about language and thought:
If thought, as I believe, forms itself in the mind by means of words, then, in the first fraction of a second, when the thought is sparked, the words that instantaneously cluster around it, like barnacles, are not clearly distinguishable to the mind’s eye: They constitute the thought only in potential, a shape underwater, present but not fully detailed. When a thought emerges in the language of the speaker (and each language produces particular thoughts that can be only imperfectly translated), the mind selects the most adequate words in that specific language, to allow the thought to become intelligible, as if the words were metal shavings gathering around the magnet of thought.
I am eternally grateful to Manguel because although I do not think it is the perfect book about reading, The History of Reading is sufficiently like the book I myself would write on the topic that it has saved me the trouble of doing so myself! (Have been having various exciting thoughts on what books I might want to write next, only I know that sharing them often lessens the impulse to write them, so will keep it all to myself until things are a bit further advanced.)

Another good brain bit in the NYT, in case you didn't see it: Ron Suskin on how Disney provided a language for his autistic son.

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