I have always enjoyed making lists, especially list involving books and reading: lists of books I've read, lists of books I've listened to on audio CD, lists of my favorite authors, lists of books I intend reading, lists of books I've reviewed and posted on amazon.com, lists of books I've discussed in book groups, lists of books I've studied in detail, etc. I also have enjoyed the way words look and sound by themselves and in combination with other words, especially words that start with the same letter, words that are synonyms, words that are antonyms, simple monosyllabic words, compound words, obscure words, colorful words, etc. Is it any wonder I have fallen in love with the writing of Georges Perec?
Here is my favorite sentence from the back cover of this book, Thoughts of Sorts, translated by David Bellos and published by David R. Godine: "This playful and inventive master of classification and wordplay investigates the ways in which we define our place in the world, reveling in list-making, orientating and classifying." I couldn't imagine a more apt one-sentence description of this collection of essays.
Playful and Inventive - Here is a quote from the essay `Reading' under the section on public transport: "The place for reading is the metro. That could almost be a definition. I continue to be amazed that neither the Minister of Culture nor the Secretary of State for Higher Education has ever exclaimed: "Honourable members should cease forthwith their demands for more money for libraries. The people's true library is the underground!""
Master of classification and wordplay - When speaking on the alphabet in `Thoughts of Sorts/Sorts of Thoughts', we read, "The quality code of alphabetical order is not very rich; in fact, it has only three elements: A for excellent, B for less good and Z for rock bottom (in French, really rotten films can be called "Z movies)."
The ways in which we define our place in the world - From `Notes on the Objects to Be Found on My Desk', we find, "I do still work now quite often in cafes; but at home it is only once in a blue moon that I work (write) anywhere else than at my desk (for instance, I don't ever really write in bed), and my desk is never used for anything other than my work (once again, as I write these words down I realize that they are not quite correct: two or three times a year; when I give a party, I clear my desk completely, cover it with a paper tablecloth and - like the plank on which I pile my dictionaries - turn it into a serving table)."
Reveling in list-making, orientating and classifying - In the section `On Order' in the essay `Brief Notes on the Art and Craft of Sorting Books' the author has four sub-sections: `Ways of sorting books', `Books which are very easy to sort', `Books which are not too hard to sort', and `Books which are well-night unsortable'.
I included the above quotes and snips as a way of a small taste of what the reader will find in this enlightening and entertaining collection of short essays. If you wish to explore the writings of Georges Perec, Thoughts of Sorts is a perfect place to start before moving on to his longer books: `A Void', `Life: A User's Manual', `Species of Spaces and Other Pieces', etc..