Today’s book is A Book By An Author You Love. And have I got a good one for this!
I love Michael Dirda. Very, very much. Long ago I wrote a post about his collection Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments. I own his lovely, engaging love letter to literary classics, Classics for Pleasure, and the wonderful and diverse collection of his reviews, Bound to Please.
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living With Books is a collection of personal literary essays Dirda wrote for The American Scholar in 2012 and 2013. Entertaining, of pleasing variety of topics, accessible, friendly and erudite, each piece is a jewel of passionate bookishness.
There’s a lot to love in this collection, but a few stood out to me as favorites. “The Evidence in the (Book) Case,” in which Dirda discusses the books that he keeps by his bed for comforting late-night browsing, struck me on a personal level, because I love to make lists of my favorite books. I agree with the idea that so-called Night-Stand Books offer a revealing glimpse into the inner world of a bookworm. We’ve got ones for show out in the public areas of our houses. We’ve got the books we have working relationships with in the kitchen, the office, or the shop. Our casual book-friends usually wind up in the bookbag or living room. Bed-side books are the titles we find comfort in, the ones that soothe us, the ones we’re so friendly and intimate with that we don’t need to think about them too hard. We can just enjoy them all comfy-cozy and snuggled up. It takes a special book, one that you really feel a connection with, to make it into the bedroom.
As a person who also writes about books and reading and tries to be entertaining about it, “Language Matters” made me feel not so alone in my own personal “linguistic tics and crotchets” and the fact that my own writing is indeed “flaw-specked.” Dirda also says, after quoting Somerset Maugham, that: “I’d settle for being able to write like Rousseau or Diderot, or Arthur Machen, Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly, or Janet Flanner or Joseph Mitchell. I wouldn’t want to write like Henry James, though, or Virginia Woolf–too much brocade for my taste. Alas, there seems small likelihood that my style will ever be perceived as other than a poor thing but mine own.”
Mmmhmm. If I could write like anyone, I think I would like to write like Michael Dirda. Especially about books.
Last, I just took pure pleasure in “A Dreamer’s Tale” (it plays to my own fantasies of following my bliss and going on adventures and just reading whatever I please for as long as I please), and in “Christmas Reading” (because Christmas. And Sherlock Holmes).
If you’re at all of the bookish persuasion, if you are always looking for new things to read and you love to have smart, passionate people tell you about their favorites, if your love of reading is deep, try Michael Dirda’s work if you haven’t already. Your reading list will grow exponentially, but so will your love of sharing books.
I will now settle back and eagerly await Dirda’s next book, which he kept hinting at all through Browsings. Until it comes out I guess I’ll have to settle for dipping back into Classics for Pleasure.