My long time favorite book about books is Books in Black or Red
. Heather introduced me to this bizarre and enchanting title. It’s that type of book that makes you roll with laughter while family or friends around look at you in disbelief. How can a book ever take a person that far? It does. It is seriously hilarious.
Recently, a dear friend asked for my favorites, and I mentioned Great Books by David Denby
, which I was about to finish and now have. A 48 years old movie critic goes back to his Alma Mater, Columbia university, to take two courses, the ones on literature. Among the students and teachers again, he will read for the second time, and sometimes for the first, those books in the so questioned canon. Relating his reading to his experience, and determined to read for pleasure, he surprises himself by mustering the discipline it takes to stay focused while reading difficult authors such as Kant and Hegel. He discovers new things in books, and starts connecting them all and what they represent in the life of a generation who, far away from sharing that alleged hegemonic point of view and familiarity with the so called western canon, shares the malady of being smitten by technology, fast pace life, and an assault to our imagination that makes it difficult to connect and understand what some authors mean in the course of history.
Someone as removed from my own situation in age, class, profession, heritage, etc. as David Denby, and nonetheless his thoughts and analysis of some of the books I also have read resonated with me. Needless to say that, if I already were not convinced and committed to reading classics, his talk about all the titles he read made me want to go for all… OK, in honesty, I’m not as compelled to attempt some of the titles as much as others. I know what will make me go for those difficult titles would be if I took a course like him, or if they were offered at a book club. That is how I have read titles I never could read solo.
My only and greatest disappointment was that he did not care for nor expanded on the excerpts of El Quijote they all read, nor Faust. The first one because I would have loved his witty remarks and his thoughts on it, and I would have expected him to love it and link it to our history, the second because it is a book I want one day my daughters to read, and I plan to do so too. All the other titles that Denby read, are well discussed.
I hope if you get to read this book, that you remember I don’t agree one hundred percent with his personal views or remarks. As a non christian, Denby has a different idea of morality, yet he is always honest and though he drops his opinions on morals now and then (his book is based on his experience and views), the value of his book discussion, to me, transcends those objections I have to his views.
Last, another friend recommendation. Karen mentioned 84, Charing Cross Road, and I am so glad I got this jewel. A must for those who love books about books, reading, London … My only regret it’s that it is too short.
Now I’m down to two titles, still Rilke’s War Letters, and Moby Dick. I must add one, and I’m debating between my adored Galdós, a much shorter title this time, Doña Perfecta, or The Heart of Darkness, or Strong Poison, by Sayers. It’s summer, and Sayers is the perfect summer read. This is her second Lord Peter’s book, and I am ready for it.
What are you reading this summer?
(I should be working on next year schedules… and we are yet closing on the last readings for this intense and never ending year, yet a great one!, but I cannot resist summer reads).