Report on Book Report on Kurt Palka (The Piano Maker, et al.): What if a Great Novel is Worth Re-reading?

I’ve been responding deeply enough to art since I launched CogZest to own up to the fact “it” has become a project of mine, beyond the one I committed to from the outset of CogZest, i.e., The Zest of Brel. My long term plan includes editing, publishing and contributing to a book provisionally called Cognitive Responses to Art. However, I’ve also made “it” a major focus of Discontinuities.

I’m afraid I can’t be more precise right now about Discontinuities because it seems to have its own motives and clamoring, including to serve my limerence projects and to fight for its “rightful place” in relation to the other book and functional specifications I am concurrently writing. But, like I, they have their own “will to meaning”. So, it’s going to be an interesting year.

It is in this context that a book review and a book report on Kurt Palka and The Piano Maker caught my eye in this week-end’s print edition of the Globe and Mail. The book review was ascerbic, whereas the book report, to which I am responding, was inspirational.

There we learned that Palka shared:

  • the sources of some of his favourite sentences,
  • the importance of obliquity and the priming of the imagination in the best creative writing,
  • that to write about love, in its various forms, is some of the best advice he has received,
  • the power of le sous-entendu in Camus,
  • that books worth reading once are worth reading again.

All of these gems resonated with me as I suspect they would with many. But the last one in particular connects with my projects.

If you’ve read Cognitive Productivity, you know that I’m striving to understand processes, structures and even architecture of mind involved in transforming oneself based on what one reads. You also understand some of the deeper reasons why reading and even rereading non-fiction will only get you “so far”.

In Cognitive Productivity, the inputs to the personal development processes (and problem solving, and knowledge creation …) are factual, practical, and prescriptive conceptual artifacts. But what to make with fiction? According to Palka we reread the best in order to experience the perfection of language. I don’t know the author personally, but I’m sure he would adduce other reasons.

We don’t want to take the esthetic pleasure, the amusement, and other various transient enjoyments out of processing artistic artefacts. (A deep thinking graduate of an English literature program recently told me that his studies permanently spoiled his ability to enjoy a novel.) And yet everyone of us at least implicitly answers the question, what lasting value do I seek from the experience of art. And also the question, how should I go about pursuing that value? Naturally, I have been quite preoccupied with these questions.


Beaudoin, L. P. (2015), Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective. BC: CogZest.

Beaudoin, L. P. (2015, July). Specification for a productive practice app to assess and improve psychological treatments for romantic grief and other tertiary emotions. Poster presented at ISRE 2015. Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from

The Globe and Mail (2016-01-08) The Book Report: Kurt Palka: ‘Any book worth reading once is worth reading again’. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Donaldson, E. (2016-01-08). Review: Kurt Palka’s strange Piano Maker tells a grandiose but hollow story. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from (Print title: “Double Jeopardy: A woman is retried for the ‘unnatural death’ of her business partner in Kurt Palka’s strange new novel”.)

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Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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