Great Books and Fractals

I took a course on great books in college, and the question of what constitutes a “great book” was visited throughout the course. In my recent study of the Bhagavad Gita, the same question has come to mind.

All great books must address issues of enduring importance and value to human societies. In order to stand the test of time, they must be open to interpretation and understanding as language and culture changes. But if they are too open to interpretation, then they fail to communicate anything.

So we have something desirable or interesting precariously balanced between two sets of undesirable or uninteresting things. Whenever I encounter something of this nature, I wonder whether it is a point on a beautiful, complex, fractal shape: Perhaps the set of great books form a fractal border between books that fail to provide enduring value. On one side are books that are so specific to a place and time that they aren’t valuable outside it. On the other are books that are so open to interpretation that they fail to communicate anything of importance.


Created at: 3 January 2013 6:01 PM