Open Book


For people who love books and reading and who remember well their own first encounters with books, Michael Dirda's memoir/autobiography serves up some delicious moments. Perhaps the most satisfying moments in the book come when we realize that Mr. Dirda simply isn't all-encompassing (as it sometimes appears he must be) but that he has some limits. For example, he reveals that he doesn't much care for Agatha Christie. But don't hold that against him, it's one of the very few weaknesses in his armor of a catholic embrace of literature.

Mr. Dirda's life has some fascinating parallels with my own, and I'm certain that any person who grew up loving books will find moments that reflect their own lives. His discovery of the sonorities of H.P. Lovecraft; his intentional baiting of teachers who were not quite so eclectic in their readings and tastes; the constant pressure from parents to get your nose out of a book and go outside and do something (though I must admit that I didn't get too much of this).

There are enormous pleasures in reading Mr. Dirda's life in books, and some regrets as well. There are the roads untaken and the paths unexplored that one can see more clearly when reflecting on someone else's life and path. And then, there are the books unread--numberless streams and rivers of them--too many to ever even begin to number, and we're counting only the very best. What is one to do in facing the tide.

Well, it appears that Mr. Dirda, like the Chinese brother of fame, faces them with mouth wide open, ready to take in the entire sea of them and more. We know it isn't true, but those of us in the book-reading competitive world know that we have our work cut out for us when we face a man who read War and Peace by age 16, and kept lists of what he was reading as early as 14.

Next time the wife complains about the seventy or so volumes of journal that litter odd corners of our house, I'll just direct her to Mr. Dirda.

Highly enjoyable, highly recommended. In fact, can't be recommended highly enough.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 6, 2006 11:11 AM.

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