I am reading Robert Irwin's "The Arabian Nights" A companion. It was recommended to me as 'the best commentary ever.' I dont really agree. I think the best work of commentary is Herbert Dreyfus's commentary on Heidegger's "Being and Time", "Being-in-the-world." The best work of literary criticism or commentary is Mimesis by Auerbach. I keep a copy of this above my desk - 'being-in-the-world' is relegated to my stacks.
What is interesting about the Arabian nights commentary is its discussion of literary scholarship. This all but disappeared with the advent of ideologies and literary criticism. Rather than the try piecing together of texts from various sources, trying to find the 'true text' in some sort of pseudo-scientific exploration, people now just interpret a text in light of some agenda - in some meta-pseudo-scientific pontification. We are really moving beyond the scientific method - it seems - as a mode of exploration and investigation of the world. String theory is not a result of empirical evidence and nor is the Lacanian interpretation of Pär Lagerkvist.
But back to the Arabian nights commentary. So one of the ideas that caught my eye was that scholars where attempting to create a sort of evolutionary tree of different editions of the Arabian nights. This is sort of an interesting thought to me that works of literature can have a history. Further along, we see that many of the stories in the Nights, have parallels in Chaucer, Boccaccio, various sanskrit works, and other. Here is yet another genealogy - the genealogy of an idea rather than the genealogy of a work. I feel like these sorts of ideas are used in the generation of books themselves, the questionable source of a work is used as a device in Don Quixote and in the "Dictionary of the Khazars" - and probably in 59% of Bevery Borges novels.
The sort of scholarship that went into this sort of detective work seems more apt for the computer age (or the Big Data Age) than the experimental age, however I dont think literature scholars are doing this sort of work anymore -
I leave you with some of my favorite lines from Tao Lin's "Shoplifting from American Apparel"
"On Christmas Eve Sam work around 7 p.m. in his brother's studio apartment in Manhattan. Sam had moved in November into a four-person apartment in Brooklyn but was staying at his brother's studio while his brother was on vacation with his girlfriend. Sam put on music very loud and showered in the dark with the bathroom door open. He put in earphones and walked ten blocks to an organic raw vegan restaurant. He ate a seaweed salad. He drank a smoothie. He walked back to the apartment. He drank an energy drink. He worked on writing for two and a half hours. He lay on his brother's queen-size bed and listened to music. He read most of the newest Stephen Dixon novel and fell asleep around 3 a.m.