Tag: reading

Money is Everywhere

I’m in several book clubs. One of these is engrossed in the reading of David Graeber’s Debt: the first 5000 years. One of the topics there is the evolution of what coinage or currency is, how it attains its value, etc.

Of course, once you see one thing, you see it everywhere. From Catherine Nicholson’s review of a book on Tudor era childhood (emphasis added):

As the archaeologists discovered, the hollow resonance chambers running beneath the choir stalls, designed to enhance the acoustics of the space, had become a convenient repository for floor sweepings, food scraps, and all manner of childish possessions: wooden-handled penknives and inkwells fashioned from chunks of the crumbling sandstone walls; tokens used in teaching arithmetic; arrowheads for target practice; animal bones from midday meals; belt buckles; a metal mouth harp; a few clay and stone marbles; the frame for a pair of spectacles; and a single molar, considerably worn but with root intact, lost from the mouth of a child between the ages of nine and twelve.

But the bulk of the Whitefriars inventory, by far, consisted of tiny pieces of metal: dozens of hooks; hundreds of tags, aglets, and lace ends; and an extraordinary quantity of pins—1,575 in all—ranging in diameter from fine dressmaker’s pins to sturdy tacks. In a report on the excavation, one of the archaeologists notes that similar stashes of pins had been found in sites in Southampton and Rickmansworth, “but not in these quantities,” and concludes, “It seems likely that they relate to the wearing and pleating of ruffs.” In his new study, Tudor Children, the British historian Nicholas Orme advances an alternate theory. Lacking access to coins, he argues, children in sixteenth-century England invented currencies from what was at hand: pebbles, nuts, cherrystones, seedpods, and any available bit of metal.


John Naughton, in his Memex blog has a nice celebration of Bloomsday post. Within he includes a lovely section of a talk given by Sally Rooney who then goes on to quote Anne Enright

Apart from everything that you could possibly imagine, nothing much happens in Ulysses.

Very true. It reminded me of a couple moments in the seminar on Ulysses I took from Robert D Newman (then TAMU professor, now President and Director of the National Humanities Center – how our lives and ambitions and dreams lead us).

The first was when he summarized the book (himself or in quote). “It’s just about a single day. Not much happens on that day, and everything happens on that day.”

The second, and this was during a crest of the textual analysis waves, where the Gabler edition had recently been published, was when he came into class a minute or so late and said somewhat breathlessly “I’m sorry I’m late, I was on the phone with John Kidd, who was counting commas.”

It’s never too soon to pick up Ulysses. It is about a single day. It is about everything. It’s reputation for depth is earned and shouldn’t be a deterrent. Let the language and tale sweep you through the day, and let the references flutter past like the leaves on the sidewalk you’re walking along. You can rake them up later.

To say that one had “seen the light” is a poor description of the mental rapture which only the convert knows…. The new light seems to poor in from all directions across the skull; the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to everyone question, doubts and conflicts are a matter of the tortured past…. Nothing henceforth can disturb the convert’s inner peace and serenity — except the occasional fear of losing faith again, and losing thereby what alone makes life worth living. And falling back into the outer darkness.

Arthur Koestler describing the conversion experience to Communism, but possibly broadly applicable to many conversion experience and ideation large and small.