5/19/2013

Book Look - Book By Book, by Michael Dirda



You've heard the aphorism: "Based solely on the contents of your library, I knew we were going to be the best of friends"? Michael Dirda's a Pulitzer Prize winning Book Critic who I've never met except through his frequent contributions to the Washington Post's Book World, but based on this short memoir, we'd definitely hit it off.

Reading this felt like hanging out with a group of old college friends, exchanging ideas and anecdotes about life, religion, art, and literature. Not in a wine and cheese way, but in a beer and chips way, with everyone interrupting each other, quotes from famous books/authors offered as supporting evidence, raised voices, lots of gesticulating, and plenty of anecdotes and digressions. ("They made us read Mary Wollencraft in college - ugh!"; "I went from Nancy Drew straight to Agatha Christie, but my next stop definitely wasn't Crime & Punishment!";"Where's Poe? How can you compile a list of the greatest horror stories without a single Poe?")

The book is a collection of reflective essays, quotes, and lists, and is definitely best read with a pencil at hand, because half the fun is interacting with the text: agreeing, disagreeing, making connections, marking off books already read and books to add to your reading list, etc. Only alert I'll issue to potential readers is that the author does presume a good grounding in European/American humanities. If you've attended a decent US/European liberal arts college or are an autodidact, however, you should be fine.

If you're ever in Virginia, Michael Dirda, my college buddies and will have a beer standing by with your name on it!

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