“Know It All,” by Kathryn Schulz. The New Yorker, 10/16/2017.
Kathryn Schulz has become one of my favorite authors. I have written about her before.
The Oxford University Press publishes a unique series of books called the “Very Short Introduction” books. Each book covers one topic and is limited to 35,000 words, about 120 pages. They are small and trim to appeal as an impulse item. You are meant to imagine if you had to hop a flight from D.C. to Cleveland, you could be well on your way to mastering the history of Medieval Britain by the time you arrive. Or mastering the galaxies. Or, fungi. Or, folk music. They are available at Amazon, even for those who never travel. They sound like they are right down my alley.
Yes! I am a widely-knowledgeable, but shallow intellectual. I crave to know a little about everything, but a little is enough.
For example, Pliny the Elder (Also known as Pliny of Poor Choices) died as he was finishing a 10-volume compendium of everything, called “Natural History.” Curiosity not only killed the cat, it also killed Pliny. He got off a boat to get a better look at an erupting volcano named Vesuvius, only two miles from the thriving city of Pompeii. Unfortunate choice.
Miss Cook, our high school Latin teacher, would have chuckled knowingly. (She rarely laughed but often chuckled.)
The compendium he was working on is considered to be the first encyclopedia. I do not need to know more.