- Jun 2022
Connections that seemed self-evident whenenvisaged abstractly turned out to be weak or artificial when itcame to the task of setting down one sentence after another.
It would seem that Barzun didn't create links between particular ideas as he made them given the fact that his outlines are abstract and his connections felt "weak and artificial".
The old cookbook said: " Take enough butter." I say: "Do nottake too many notes." Both recommendations are hard to inter-pret except by trial and error.
You may prefer notebooks to cards for note taking-very well:use what you like, but invariably; it will save you time andannoyance. If you use cards , use small ones (3" x 5") so that youuse a separate card for each fact, title, or memorandum toyourself. The cards are then easily shuffled for grouping. If youuse a notebook, leave a margin for the key word, letter, or num-ber which you will insert later as an index to the contents.
Barzun, Jacques. Simple and Direct : A Rhetoric for Writers. Revised edition. University of Chicago Press, 1985.
“Old age is like learning a new profession,” he noted drily. “And not one of your own choosing.”
Barzun has observed that “the vulgarity of mankind,” in the sense of the common man’s intense awareness of life—life with all its brief pleasures and bruising shocks—“is not only a source of art but the ultimate one.”
Around 1941, Barzun took on a larger classroom, becoming the moderator of the CBS radio program “Invitation to Learning,” which aired on Sunday mornings and featured four or five intellectual lights discussing books. From commenting on books, it was, apparently, a short step to selling them. In 1951, Barzun, Trilling, and W. H. Auden started up the Readers’ Subscription Book Club, writing monthly appreciations of books that they thought the public would benefit from reading. The club lasted for eleven years, partly on the strength of the recommended books, which ranged from Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” to Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition,” and partly on the strength of the editors’ reputations.
together with his friend Wendell Hertig Taylor, kept a running tally of every mystery book that came along. Their brief descriptions, scribbled on three-by-five-inch index cards, eventually coalesced into “A Catalogue of Crime,” one of the foremost reference works in the mystery/suspense genre.
Jacques Barzun had a card index for cataloging mystery/suspense books which he maintained on 3x5" cards with his friend Wendell Hertig Taylor.
Did he keep a card index for his ideas as well?
- zettelkasten examples
- mystery novels
- human resources
- reading practices
- card index
- book clubs
- Invitation to Learning
- Lionel Trilling
- Jacques Barzun
- Wendell Hertig Taylor
- old age
- W. H. Auden
- Readers' Subscription Book Club
My own copy of A Catalogue of Crime certainly fits that description, even though I generally disagree with many of its harsh judgments on modern crime fiction. Barzun and Taylor definitely prefer classic whodunits, especially those written with wit, panache, and, above all, cleverness. The Catalogue lists more than 5,000 novel-length mysteries, collections of detective stories, true-crime books, and assorted volumes celebrating the delights of detection. Every entry is annotated, and a succinct critical judgment given.
While this excerpt doesn't indicate the index card origin of the published book, it does indicate that it has descriptions of more than 5,000 novel-length mysteries, detective stories, etc. which includes annotations and critical judgements of each.
One can thus draw the conclusion that this shared index card collection of details was used to publish a subsequent book.
Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison reads in as follows in its entirety: “JB puts this highest among the masterpieces. It has the strongest possible element of suspense—curiosity and the feeling one shares with Wimsey for Harriet Vane. The clues, the enigma, the free-love question, and the order of telling could not be improved upon. As for the somber opening, with the judge’s comments on how to make an omelet, it is sheer genius.”
- Nov 2021
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Might be interesting to look at this reference to see what she's referring to specifically.
It would be interesting to see how note taking is changing with even newer digital tools like Hypothes.is, Diigo, Twitter, Readwise, etc.
Perhaps the growth of digital gardens in public may be a place for study as well? Though one would need to be wary of the idea of performative note taking as these are often done specifically in public as opposed to private as is more common in the past.