Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading
An anthology of stories edited by Laura Furman and Elinore Standard
"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
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Used availability for Laura Furman's Bookworms
November 1996 : USA Paperback