I'm only a fifth of the way through it, but I'm loving Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Anathem. It may turn out to be my favorite Stephenson, and I own and have read everything he's written.
Here's a description of a book the memorization of which is used as a punishment in the monastic order the narrator belongs to:
[....] It contained twelve chapters. Like the scale used to measure earthquakes, these got exponentially worse as they went on, so Chapter Six was ten times as bad as Chapter Five, and so on. Chapter One was just a taste, meted out to delinquent children, and usually completed in an hour or two. [....]
[....] Chapter One was a page of nursery-rhymes salted with nonsense-words that almost rhymed -- but not quite. Chapter Four was five pages of the digits of pi. Beyond that, however, there was no further randomness in the Book, since it was easy to memorize truly random things once you taught yourself a few tricks -- and everyone who'd made it through Chapter Four knew the tricks. Much harder to memorize and to answer questions about were writings that almost but did not quite make sense; that had internal logic, but only to a point. [....] The punishment lay in knowing that you were putting all of that effort into letting a kind of intellectual poison infiltrate your brain to its very roots. [....]
Tags: books, quotes