a reader’s progress

“I am old fashioned and think that reading books is the most glorious pastime that humankind has yet devised.” –March 2, 2003

A few months ago I came across this passage from the introduction to a one volume English translation of Wistawa Szymborska‘s Nonrequired Reading: I am old fashioned and think that reading books is the most glorious pastime that humankind has yet devised. Homo Ludens dances, sings, produces meaningful gestures, strikes poses, dresses up, revels and […]

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“This cornucopia of literature provides hope” –February 18, 2003

Every season brings welcome tidings of the largesse that I am soon to benefit from by way of books sent to me by book publishers. Mostly this comes in the form of catalogues. Occasionally cleverly or handsomely designed, this cornucopia of literature provides hope, at least in the short term, of an interesting and radiant […]

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“The announcement of the continuation of the Godfather saga…” –11 February, 2003

What’s with all the goomba bling bling? The announcement of the continuation of the Godfather saga has so far been greeted with a sound, I imagine, of sheep grazing in the meadow. (I wouldn’t know that sound, never having been privy to such rustic entertainment.) The fractious (and admirable) bunch that scour the infosphere for […]

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“Given my extensive self-imposed required reading list and my voracious appetite for the printed page…” –February 8, 2003

Given my extensive self-imposed required reading list and my voracious appetite for the printed page (and its cyber iterations), I am constantly worrying myself about the relevance, the meaning, and the import of all the typography that passes before my eyes. I recently recalled a hilarious op-ed piece that speechwriter Mark Katz wrote for the […]

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“19 Biographies in 12 Years” –February 2, 2003

If I have read more than a dozen biographies (not to be confused with memoirs) in the past 12 years, I would be surprised. Surprise! Scrupulous record keeping contradicts this recollection. So okay, I’ve read nineteen: Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealey Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J.Edgar Hoover – Anthony Summers […]

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“Salon.com One-Day Pass” –January 26, 2003

Okay, like many people, I presume, I have crafted tactics of procrastination to deal with the occasional mental fog or creative palsy while sitting at my writing appliance. One kind of diversion is to make spontaneous visits to various book-marked web sites in an endless foraging for I-don’t-know-what. I recently stopped by Salon.com as it […]

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“Selling books on the web wasn’t why she opened a book store.” –January 19, 2003

The good news is that one less of a precious endangered species, Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore, is not going the way of the dodo. The Johnson Paint Store, a little further up the avenue (Newbury Street), another neighborhood institution, will be renting out its commodious second floor to Vince McCaffrey, thereby providing life support to […]

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“Exploring that brave new world, the blogosphere.” –January 15, 2003

I wonder about the adjectives that are used to describe reading: light reading, summer reading, required reading, beach reading. I think the venerable Norman Mailer had it right when he was asked about his summer reading list. "I read all year around," he growled. Because I spend a fair amount of time in front of […]

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“After recently bemoaning the declining quality of films” –January 4, 2003

After recently bemoaning the declining quality of films these days with no less an enthusiast than David Thomson—he, of the glorious Biographical Dictionary of Film (4th edition)—I have been thinking a bit about the relationship of movies and books over a range of, uh, issues. In early December PW published a short q & a […]

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“Under-Appreciated Fiction of the 21st Century” –January 1, 2003

There are many societal conventions that I can’t seem to connect with, the calendar year and most of the holidays contained therein are some of them. Thus they have no celebratory meaning for me. As a white lighter for many years (not quite like Fran Liebowitz, who claims she went out every night for 15 […]

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“YOU FURNISH THE PICTURES AND I’LL FURNISH THE WAR.” –Dec 28, 2002

Despite the rising din of war drums I managed, lately, to read a few newspapers. The recent flap over alleged Iraqi atrocities when they occupied Kuwait (rehashed in the HBO movie of CNN’s purportedly valiant efforts in covering that war) reminded me of the anecdote surrounding William Randolph Hearst’s dispatch of artist Fredrick Remington to […]

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“Having disconnected myself from television…” –December 26, 2002

Having disconnected myself from television—at least for the short term—I expect I avoided innumerable promotions for broadcasts of what has become a Christmas holiday cliche, It’s a Wonderful Life. As I have also pulled the plug on that other great American past time, shopping, it is no wonder that my growing alienation from the mainstream […]

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“My life of reading, of loving books, was launched by my mother…” –Dec 13, 2002

My life of reading, of loving books, was launched by my mother’s good instincts in taking me to the Chicago Public Library at the age of eight (I think) for my library card and on a weekly basis thereafter helping me take home a stack of books from the Belmont Avenue branch. There are, I […]

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“The issue of who the cultural arbiters are” –December 8, 2002

Some weeks ago Globe columnist Alex Beam — one of the few remaining and diminishing reasons justifying that newspaper’s contribution to deforestation — mentioned in passing that a particular novel was “lyrical and under appreciated.” Which immediately got me to thinking about how many novels are adequately appreciated, or even what that would mean. Then […]

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“Some of my fellow citizens who are compelled to be in constant despair…” –Dec. 6, 2002

Some of my fellow citizens who are compelled to be in constant despair about the persistent decline of civilization (an attitude I have always associated with my undergraduate years) or the impending apocalypse are, I think, very much aided and supported by their synergistic (or is it symbiotic) relationship with the thing thoughtlessly (that’s a […]

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