You’ll Never Catch Up

Comments from my last post “Movies to watch with Mom” had me running back to the 60’s, 50’s and even the 30’s for movie recommendations. Admittedly, I’ve been playing catch-up in recent years, watching films I’ve missed, including those from “The Golden Age of Hollywood”, the 30’s and 40’s. TCM is one of my favorite channels. So, thanks to litlove and shoreacres, I’ve been having a fun time digging out gems… IMDb is a great resource.

The oldest movie I’ve seen in its entirety is probably Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” (1921). I’ve watched only excerpts of D. W. Griffith‘s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), so that doesn’t count. Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is probably the next oldest (1928) I’ve seen. Then comes Ozu’s “A Story of Floating Weeds” (1934). They are all silent films.

Several of my all time favorites are in black and white: “Casablanca” (1942), Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953), Robert Bresson’s “Diary of a Country Priest” (1951) and “Pickpocket” (1959), and to the 60’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962).

Yesterday, I came across this tweet from Scott Myers of Go Into The Story, a top screenwriting site in the blogosphere:

Thor” is the 46,775th movie registered with MPAA. If u watched 1 movie per day, it would take you 128 years to see them all.

That is… “see them all” up to “Thor”.

So, I don’t feel that bad for having a relatively limited ‘repertoire’. And it’s perfectly justified that I only see and write about those that interest me… That may well explain why you see mostly three out of four ripples in my reviews, since I’ve already eliminated the bulk of them. So, don’t feel bad that you haven’t caught up, it’s humanly impossible. And I’m afraid I’ll have to skip “Thor”.

The same with books.

I joined Goodreads recently. A whole new world opened up for me. I mean, the number of books people have read, or are currently reading… I feel like a tortoise in a race among road runners. Now this is not as easy as adding a friend on Facebook. Turning a ‘currently-reading’ book into ‘read’ is an achievement, not just a click on the ‘confirm’ button.

Lately, there’s a lot of discussions about the topic of being well-read. First off, finding a consensus on its definition is hard enough, let alone its measurement. According to Wikipedia, in 2009, there were 288,355 new books published in the United States (UNESCO data). Now that’s only for one year, in one country. Consider the past decades and centuries and all the classics of all human history and languages.

I like the title of a recent NPR article by Linda Holmes: “The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything”. It begins with this statement:

The vast majority of the world’s books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It’s just numbers.

We just can’t keep up with them all. In the article, Holmes calculates if you read 2 books a week continuously from age 15 until you’re 80, you’ll have read 6,500 books, which sounds pretty impressive. Let’s say you limit yourself to just read books from the last 250 years, those 6,500 books don’t even make a dent. Further, as you’re reading, catching up with all those already published works, by the time you’re 80, you’ll have missed 65 years of new publications.

Why even bother playing the catch-up game? If there’s any catch-up that’s truly meaningful, catch up with your own passion, curiosity and purpose, instead of heeding the tyranny of the populace. I’d probably enjoy my reading most if I don’t need to achieve anything by it. I’m sure the tortoise would see every single flower along the way.

Photo Source: The British Museum Reading Room from Wikimedia Commons

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

11 thoughts on “You’ll Never Catch Up”

  1. Thank you so much for the recommendations – several of which are already favourites of my mum, so you are right in the ballpark! Teaching literature is a good way of realising that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. But that’s good – it keeps you humble, and it’s a way of remembering that we’re not in a competition (not that all academics DO remember that!!). What counts is the quality of attention we bring to reading or viewing – the more we get out of something the better that experience is and the less quantity matters. You always get loads out of your viewing, Arti, so you have nothing to worry about in my opinion!


    1. litlove,

      All those I mentioned in my last post are some of my favorites. I’d like to hear about your faves too… and your mum’s. Like some other commenters here, they’re recommending books and movies to me. There are so many that I’ve missed, and for books, so many that I will not even get to read… like many that you write about. But to echo Ruth, another commenter, even if I know I won’t be reading them, I’d still like to read your views and insights. Thanks for stopping by and always leaving encouraging comments.


  2. I agree with litlove, that it’s the close reading of what we read that matters. I gave up feeling bad about how ill read I am long ago. I am a very slow reader, and that too does not bother me. I am savoring every sentence of War and Peace, and it may take me a year to finish. But with such beautiful writing, I feel enriched.

    Are you familiar with Barbara Sher’s approach, about doing what you love? Inge read her book Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love in which she talks about seven types of “scanners.” One is a serial scanner, who is drawn to one thing and quickly moves on to the next. She encourages people to do what they love, not worry about focusing on what they think they should.

    Each of us can make our own goals that are meaningful to our soul and not feel enslaved by them. One thing I know is that you have wonderful taste in books and film, and I appreciate your recommendations. Even if I don’t read or see them, I always enjoy your reflections on them, with insights into life and art.


    Thanks for your book recommendation… and the movie Temple Grandin. I’m a slow reader too, so it takes much less time to watch a movie and write a review than to read a book. But I enjoy both. With movies though, sometimes it’s hard to find one that resonates with me deep enough for me to want to review it… while there are so many good books around which I can access easily. I’m savoring every line of E. M. Forster’s Howards End at the moment. Have you seen the movie? It’s excellent too.



  3. When I first arrived in the blogosphere and then discovered the world of book bloggers, I went through a long period of feeling precisely as I did in junior high: incompetent, inadequate and hopelessly out of synch.

    I had no idea how they were (are) reading so much. So many reviewed books appealed to me, but even when I bought the books, they just sat on the shelves – this is the third year I’m going to try to read the volumes I chose for the Japanese Literature Challenge!

    On the other hand, the books I have are books I’ve read multiple times. I use them as reference books, for inspiration, for companionship. When I add a new one, I don’t do it because it’s on someone’s list – I do it because somehow, in some way, something about the book suggests it’s going to fit into my life in a way that will enrich it.

    My latest addition will be Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. One of her primary arguments in the book is that sometimes even the multi-talented artist must choose a single route in order to achieve the greatest focus. In other words, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do something. It’s true for life, and she suggests it’s true for art.

    It seems like such wisdom to me. Time and energy are limited. Distractions are endless. Others’ expectations and demands press on us. But once we decide what we want to do – what we want to read, or write, or create or let go – playing the “catch-up game” seems a little silly.


    1. Linda,

      Yes, this is exactly the point… we read or not read for our own reasons, not to meet others’ expectations. I can see from your posts how much T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets has resonated with you. Also thanks for your suggestion, The Creative Habit sounds like a wonderful book.

      As for book bloggers, they can be a big motivating force for me. Like I really admire them for reading and reviewing so much and so fast amidst a demanding day job, family duties, and other relationships and activities. While I can never catch up with them, I like to know their reading lists and read their reviews. That’s the best way to select the books that interest me… one major advantage of joining Goodreads.


  4. When I was younger I wanted to read as many books and see as many movies as I could as a way to expand my horizons, so consequently I’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies. Now, I don’t mind at all if I miss nearly every new movie or book, because it’s true as you’ve quoted above that we’re going to miss almost everything. No need to be frantic at missing out. Time and energy are limited, and there’s so much life to live in the first-person, too. That’s why I’m happy to have you do some of the sorting for me!

    I’m glad your commenter above mentioned The Creative Habit. That was one of our reads for my book club. Many books aren’t worth reading once, but I’m going to re-read Tharp’s book.


    1. Cathy,

      How true… many books aren’t worth reading once. So are movies. But for those that are worthwhile, we reread and rewatch, always a joy.

      “There’s so much life to live in the first person…” I just love this. Thanks for the inspiration.


  5. I smiled when I read this, because it reminded me of the long-ago when my best book-and-movie-and-theatre friend, Suzanne, and I would faithfully categorize and record everything we saw or did. I recently some some of those index cards and let them go. But I still keep a book list. I’m an eclectic reader. If I get into a series of mysteries, I try to read them head to toe, but I’ll jump from history to novel to mystery to that Sondheim book I wrote about. Maybe I have reading ADD. I know I can never read everything out there that I want — good grief; I can’t even seem to read down my book stack before something is added!

    Movies — Suzanne and I used to go on a roll — read or see all the films by one person or writer or featuring one actor. She still tries to do that. I gave up. Not enough time, not enough passion. (It is indeed HER passion!) I’m happy to see things I enjoy. Don’t need to catch every Oscar nominee. Time and life is precious and short — there is much to do!

    That said, if you’re digging in the silents, check out Lillian Gish’s “Way Down East” or “Orphans of the Storm” and if you can find a copy of her out of print autobiography, it is totally fascinating! A different time, when men and women did their own stunts and the raging river was indeed a raging river and not special effects!


    1. jeanie,

      I can see myself in your vivid descriptions! I’ve several books that I’m reading at one time. Let’s just say it’s book hopping, adding variety and fun to our reading. Not the clinically defined ADD, but the literal one: ADDing new books constantly to our currently reading pile!

      As for movies, I’m just like your friend Suzanne. If I come across anything that I’m passionate about, I’d be viewing, researching and reading like mad… and watching all the related films. Some examples are Yasujiro Ozu and Robert Bresson. You can see some of their posts on my sidebar. And, as I mentioned to you on my last post replying your comment, I’ve watched all the films I can find of my faves, such as CF and KST.

      That reminds me, Jane Austen. That’s another example. I call myself a ‘Janeite’. I think I’ve seen most of the movie adaptations of her works which I reread constantly. Also, I found listening to the audio books while driving is a time-saving way to experience Jane. Like right now, it’s P & P in my car. I’ve gone thru mad days with P & P, watch the BBC CF version countless times, and read all about that production.

      Better wrap this up or I’ll go on and on. Finally, thanks for your recommendation on LG, yes, she’s the icon of the silent movie era, isn’t she? I’ll keep my eyes open for the two titles.


  6. You are so right again, of course. I feel like sometimes I have to read the most recommended books and get panicky with the thought of not being to read them all. Then I begin to reassess my reasons for reading and in the end realize what matters is I read for the moment and in the moment and that is to experience something beautiful in moments when I need it, not to insert everything I can into my life no matter how untimely or unwarranted. I guess the point I must teach myself is to be able to let go of the books I have but will finally never be able to read. You know, you’ve inspired me. I will actually go through my shelves tomorrow and do some dusting, say goodbye to books which have never prompted me to read them given that I’ve had them for months, years, even. With films I feel less panicky. I prefer foreign and indie films but I almost never get to watch them since I married since they make my husband sleep, lol. We’ve started so many that we haven’t followed through. Maybe I should just start learning to watch on my own. Then again, when I don’t watch with him, I’d rather read. Ha ha. But I will watch Thor because I loved his comics as a kid!


    You know, you’ve raised a good point, which is of course, open for discussion. I’ve found the best situation to enjoy a movie is when I’m watching it all by myself. In the past, I had to have some companion (I share the same domestic exp. as yours in that some members of our family simply avoid indie films, ‘slow’ dramas…etc and usually they are males) I’ve learnt in recent years to go to movies by myself… and found it most gratifying. The solitude, the silence, total concentration. I even have an exp. of being the only one in the whole theatre. The film: A Single Man.

    Enjoy Thor… I know it’s been rated quite highly.



  7. I do feel overwhelmed with the numbers of new books that I want to read. Even though I read quickly and, more importantly, can sit for hours on end reading, the list of books I want to read just grows and grows!



    Being a fast reader certainly has the advantage in conquering the TBR piles. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.



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