Bookworms: Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading

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9780786703951: Bookworms: Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading
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Presents a variety of excerpts from nineteenth and twentieth-century British and American authors that describe the joys of reading

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"Reading," say the editors of Bookworms, "may be the last private act of our lives." Maybe so. But in this book they have taken this very private act public. Any helplessly addicted bookworm--do unruly stacks grow in unlikely places? do you feel naked without a book along?--will find much to embrace here. Included are many fine and wonderfully rendered pieces on the thrill of first experiencing the written word, the greatness of Paradise Lost and its kin, and the "joy," as Katherine Mansfield says, of "find[ing] a new book" and "know[ing] that it will remain with you while life lasts."

But it is the less orthodox memories and thoughts on reading that stand out. Michael Holroyd reminisces that his cautious aunt "would lightly roast the [public library] books in our oven for the sake of the germs." Eva Hoffman, who was born in Krakow, discusses her wholly un-American reaction to The Catcher in the Rye: "Holden Caulfield's immaturity ... strikes me, and I write a paper upbraiding him for his false and coy naivete--my old, Polish terms of opprobrium." Don Fowler, in a section devoted to the future of books in an electronic age, reminds us of books' many uses. "There is nothing more natural about reading a book to find out the population of Zambia," he says, "than using it to impress a friend, seduce a lover, or prop up a table." And Harold Laski, in a letter to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., has a stinging description of meeting Virginia Woolf. "It was like watching someone organising her immortality," he writes. "Now and again, when she said something a little out of the ordinary, she wrote it down herself in a notebook."

Finally, if you are the type for whom reading is a sort of worship, your bookshelves a precious shrine, perhaps you best heed Emerson: "What are books?" he writes. "They can have no permanent value. Literature is made up of a heap of nouns and verbs enclosing an intuition or two." --Jane Steinberg

From Library Journal:

In this celebration of writing, Furman and Standard, both teachers and writers, have chosen some 85 selections and quotations from mostly modern American and European authors. The editors have included the famous, such as Emerson, Flaubert, and Rilke, and lesser-known contemporaries, such as poet Laura Jensen and the editors themselves. Among the nonwriters included is artist Eugene Delacroix. The introduction does not divulge why the editors undertook this particular project or what their criteria for selection were. The selections are organized into five sections: Young Readers, Sorts of Readers, Reading Aloud, Reading Ahead (the electronic media), and Privileged Pleasure (a celebration of reading). Introductions to the selections are often sketchy. One of the most moving pieces is by Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who hid Anne Frank's family. Selections by Tamar Lewin and Emily Post are amusing, while classic passages such as Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" are also included. The anthology may be of interest to public libraries and book clubs.?Nancy Patterson Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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