I’m finally reading Figuring. I put it off for a long time because I read a bad review about it. I mean it was a true review, which is probably why it had so effectively deterred me from reading the book. The critic basically said, Popova romanticizes everything. She sees everything as connected to everything else and that’s too much.
I knew the critic was right, Popova does do that with her writing but it took me about 5 years to realize that it is not “too much.” Everything is connected, and her ability to point at that is really beautiful.
The critic had framed one of her strengths as a weakness. They thought that when we look at history it should be dry and factual. That there is no room for imagination. But I think they are wrong. Whenever we think through the past we are calling on our imagination whether we recognize it or not, so why not really use it to recreate and connect the past to our present as Popova does?
It reminds me of academia. There is a tradition in academic writing to remove first person writing from it as to make it more viable or serious. But what does this actually do? Does removing the “I/my experience”s found in the writing omit the writer from the writing? It is ludicrous to think that. And why would we even want that? The best thing about reading is hearing someone else’s voice and ideas, and to pretend that does not exist takes a way from the process.