The modern novel may only be a few centuries old but long before we had a written language, there was a verbal tradition. Tales were passed through the generations. Stories that involved triumph over adversity were particularly popular. They endured, not just because they struck a happy chord but because they accurately reflected a familiar pattern. Even when things are looking down, they can soon improve. Even experts have to look things up in books. That's comforting, really. In our imaginations, we envisage those who have all the answers as performers of some vaudeville variety act, in which they can flawlessly recite long memorised lists. The ability to retain information is not, in itself, evidence of discernment. The ability to decide which information applies to which situation is by far the more valuable skill.