Too many words?

A few days ago, the Dictionary.com Word of the Day was lucubration. By way of illustration, this quote was included:

A point of information for those with time on their hands: if you were to read 135 books a day, every day, for a year, you wouldn’t finish all the books published annually in the United States. Now add to this figure, which is upward of 50,000, the 100 or so literary magazines; the scholarly, political and scientific journals (there are 142 devoted to sociology alone), as well as the glossy magazines, of which bigger and shinier versions are now spawning, and you’ll appreciate the amount of lucubration that finds its way into print.— Arthur Krystal, “On Writing: Let There Be Less”, New York Times, March 26, 1989

This quote has stuck in my mind. I have a few reactions to it; not least, noting that it is twenty years old and that the number must surely be much greater now.

These numbers are given as a reason for less writing but I can’t see that the argument stands up. Much is written that has a niche audience, particularly that published in academic journals, but that doesn’t diminish its value to the members of that audience. If what someone writes is only of interest to five people, why should those five people go without just because there is too much writing and one person can’t read it all?

I don’t know about you, but I really only need an audience of one to keep writing.

It rather puts my two bookshelves of unread books and feedreader full of unread articles into perspective. The things I know I haven’t read are a grain of sand on the beach of things I don’t know I haven’t read. But you know, that’s ok. I’ll never be short of something to read and that is wonderful.

2 thoughts on “Too many words?

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