tireless thoughts


It started with the jacket copy for the British hardback of Richard Holmes’s wonderful “Age of Wonder.” We learn there of the astronomer William Herschel’s “tireless dedication to the stars” (the actual stars, that is, the ones out there in space, before they were superseded — and possibly even outnumbered — by those in the realm of film, pop and sport). This connection between an adjective and the stars made me curious about the extent to which a word can continue to shine after the life has gone out of it. Thereafter I started to notice that “tireless” and “tirelessly” were cropping up all over the place, often in works of considerable literary merit. In Jonathan Coe’s biography of the experimental novelist, for example, I read that B. S. Johnson “worked tirelessly for the trade union movement.” There was nothing particularly wrong with this particular instance, but the cumulative effect of encountering tirelesslys made me — taking my cue from Holmes again — wonder. Like a tired person trying to get to sleep who is kept awake by sounds from the street that he or she has for years scarcely noticed, I found that the word had become suddenly unignorable.

more from Geoff Dyer at the NY Times here.