Saturday, September 30, 2006

Novel Idea

[posted by Callimachus]

This tame little novel is one of the most obscure, and most astonishing, books ever written in English. I was delighted to find it online when I first started poking around on the computer (its copyright had long since expired). Then the site went down. Now someone of my correspondence has found another one.

Just read the opening graphs -- the "Call me Ishmael," the "Whan that Aprille" of this magnum opus -- and see if you can guess what makes this a masterpiece:

If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn’t constantly run across folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.”A child’s brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult’s act, and figuring out its purport.

Up to about its primary school days a child thinks, naturally, only of play. But many a form of play contains disciplinary factors. “You can’t do this,” or “that puts you out,” shows a child that it must think, practically or fail. Now, if, throughout childhood, a brain has no opposition, it is plain that it will attain a position of “status quo,” as with our ordinary animals. Man knows not why a cow, dog or lion was not born with a brain on a par with ours; why such animals cannot add, subtract, or obtain from books and schooling, that paramount position which Man holds today.

More for what is omitted than what is included.