Thursday, September 01, 2005

A process of random selection ...

I just got home about an hour ago. I had to spend several hours shelving the books that had piled up over the past few days. I couldn't get to them because I had a couple stories to write -- which involved doing some extra reporting -- and I had lots of other stuff to do besides.
Anyway, while I discarded September's galleys and made way for December's and January's, I started thinking about the lively exchange I've been having here with Melville Goodwin and others about intelligent design and neo-Darwinism. There are maybe 600 galleys for October and another 600 for November already on the shelves, a mere fraction of the more than 12,000 that on average get published every month. It's a prodigal display of fertility, just like you see in nature, where, out of millions of fish eggs, say, only a comparatively few will actually grow up to be mature fish -- very few indeed when you take into consideration how many fall prey to other species.
I can't bring myself to believe that only the best books get reviewed. I can't even be sure if the best books get noticed. We surely can't imagine that only the best specimens survive in nature. Random selection is surely an imperfect method for determining which books to review. Seems an odd system for organizing life, too. Then again, maybe it's designed that way.


  1. Intelligent Book Design, Frank? *LOL*

  2. Very good, Frank! Now that -- to put it the way we do (but shouldn't) these days -- is something I can maybe get my mind around: an Intelligent Designer randomly selecting. Actually, I think your entire imagery is quite on the money. You're not sure that the "right" books get reviewed or noticed? Why should they always? Like Gresham's Law in which bad money drives out good, lousy books drive out good ones. If the selection weren't random, we might get inbred to the point of extinction. Maybe the same thing with books? If you (or I or anyone) selected only books that were our favorites, what would that do for your readership? Drive them away. These are but random thoughts.

  3. I was certain that you would relate to that, Melville! Actually, I think it is one of the better riposte's the neo-Darwinians could use: If you want to talk about God, well the reason we can Him God -- as Harry Nilsson once sang -- is because He can do whatever He wants -- even design a world along neo-Darwinian lines.
    And we sure agree that Gresham's Law applies to books. The Da Vinci Code proves that.

  4. And yes, Frank, I admit that the concept of Intelligent Book Design may represent quite a stretch.

  5. Choosing which books to review is such an imprecise task... In my capacity as a crime fiction critic, I get around 200 books per month. I usually review 6 or 7. Do I always pick the right ones? Not even close.