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Bound to Please: An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education Reprint Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393329636
ISBN-10: 0393329631
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Bound to Please: An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education + Classics for Pleasure (Harvest Book) + Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the opening of this marvelous collection of book reviews, Dirda declares that his book "intentionally resembles a cocktail party more than a work of criticism: it’s meant to be entertaining, sometimes provocative, above all a way to catch up with old friends and make new ones." The author himself serves as the perfect host: intelligent but humble, witty but substantial, instructive but never dogmatic. Dirda, who has worked as a writer and editor at the Washington Post Book World for more than 20 years, and who won a Pulitzer for his criticism in 1993, arranges his volume by topic so that readers interested in, say, the Renaissance, can turn to the section on "Old Masters" and find essays on both Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose and Peter Brown’s history The Rise of Western Christendom. Dirda is particularly deft at presenting well-known classics in a way that makes them seem fresh and inviting. Of Rabelais’s characters he writes, for example: "You wouldn’t want them for neighbors, but they’d be great on your side in a fight." And he’s tops at conveying the pleasure of reading itself. In fact, if there’s one problem with his collection, it’s that its essays are so tantalizing that they make you want to put down his book and run out to read a whole slew of new ones. But this, it’s clear, is exactly what Dirda wants. He’s included only the most praiseworthy reviews in this volume, with the hope that they will encourage readers "to look beyond the boundaries of the fashionable, established, or academic" and to become familiar with "terrific writers from around the world," such as Fernando Pessoa, Marcel Proust and Mikhail Bulgakov. Any serious reader will appreciate these gracious recommendations from one of the best literary journalists of our time.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Week by week, year after year, Dirda has shared his love for books and literary expertise in a column for the Washington Post Book World, earning a Pulitzer Prize for his supple, judicious, and enlivening criticism. Following his fine memoir, An Open Book (2003), he has assembled a terrific reader's resource, gathering together dozens of his superlative essays. Dirda has a rare knack for revealing the process through which he forms his opinions, an approach that sharpens his readers' reading skills, and his range is phenomenal, nearly approaching the grandness of Harold Bloom's. Here are considerations of new translations of Herodotus and Rabelais as well as reviews of the late greats Stanley Elkin and William Gaddis. Eschewing the usual suspects, he writes about Dawn Powell, Henry Green, Terry Pratchett, and Gilbert Sorrentino. Dirda has a conspicuously good time reviewing literary biographies, which afford the opportunity for him to weigh in on both the biographer and the subject, be it Blake, Pushkin, Colette, or Chester Himes. Engaging, personable, and cogent, Dirda is a true champion of the book. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393329631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393329636
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By D. Wolpe on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Here is a book, at long last, that does not derive its energy from sniping at authors. Rather, Dirda has read everything (EVERYTHING) and will tell you which humor, sci fi, mystery, romance, intellectual history, european bildugsroman, thrillers, well, I could go on for a while -- which ones are worth reading. His descriptions are exact, his enthusiasm enlivening, and as a reader of his for several years, I can attest that his recommendations are spot on. Here is a book to live with -- it is that good. My only criticism is that it will leave you with an ever lengthening shelf of books you are eager to read!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By An attorney and art lover on July 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Dirda adopts a wonderful tone as he shares with his readers his fine appreciations of the books included in this compilation. He is never pedantic or narrow or arrogant, but he is fully aware of the nuances of the many works he discusses. Each essay is short and crisp. What a pleasure it has been to read this book. This is a fine book for booklovers.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on April 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a reader of Dirda's previous books, I came to this one as a fan. I was not disappointed. Dirda is a literary enthusiast and it is this quality that he so infectiously imparts to the reader. This collection can most usefully serve as an introduction to writers and books that remained "off your radar" until reading Dirda's loving appreciation. Though no great stylist himself, it is the quality he most admires in other writers and his journalistic essays show you why. He is also no literary snob and proudly announces his love for genre writing like science-fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror alongside the "greats" (and not so great).

Finally, he is not a great critic like James Wood and his insights are rarely profound, but this collection isn't analytic criticism but rather descriptive. A huge compendium, you'll find yourself nonetheless reading it cover-to-cover. A literary delight.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on February 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The love of books, the search to know the world through books, the real hunger for books, the appreciation of books, the understanding that books can be the means by which we enhance our own life and experience- all of these are apparent in the work of Michael Dirda. His reviews by and large augment the interest we have in the work. They make us want to know the books better and read them more. His taste is wideranging, but it includes first and above all the truly greatest literature of mankind.

It is possible not only to derive great enjoyment from these reviews but also to learn a great deal about the world's literature from them.
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