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Reading Life: Books for the Ages Paperback – April 3, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1555974640 ISBN-10: 1555974643 Edition: Hardback

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Reading Life: Books for the Ages + The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Hardback edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974640
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,482,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Previously published in the American Scholar, the Believer and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among others, these critical responses address a group of novels-including The Catcher in the Rye, The Good Soldier and The Moviegoer-that chart the "topographical reference points" on the rough "map of Birkerts's inwardness." Though he has read many of the books several times, Birkerts, who teaches at Harvard and edits the journal Agni, is still often "surprised, going back, to find the work had grown fresh again, full of unexpected turns and nuances." Most of the essays are structured to reflect this unanticipated and gratifying energy by beginning at the moment of first encounter with the books under discussion-"the frisson of first connection": Madame Bovary in a Montana bunkhouse or the discovery of Humboldt's Gift after the breakup of an important romantic relationship. Looking back on the lonely, estranged and marginal selves that found (and still find) solace in the "disputatious inner swing" of the "secret Masonic life of reading," Birkerts uncovers a stabilizing realization. Through "shifts" and "twists of vantage," this collection recounts the essential transformational value of a lifetime spent discovering the self that "comes fully awake only in the dream of a book."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rereading favorite novels is the theme underpinning the latest book by an eminent American critic, who here presents a series of erudite but certainly not passionless discussions about the novels he is most prone to return to. His wide-ranging list includes J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Knut Hamsun's Pan, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and Alice Munro's Beggar Maid. These 11 essays, some of which were previously published in various periodicals, form sort of a memory bank for Birkerts as he recalls his initial reactions to these books and shares further takes on them upon subsequent readings. In looking back, he is able to specify the "special charged encounter" between himself and the work that he first experienced and explain his later understanding of why that first encounter so impressed him. This is not watered-down literary criticism for the masses; serious fiction readers will obtain valuable guidance in articulating their own private literary passions. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ds on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This interesting looking title and eye catching cover caught my eye one afternoon during a rainy retreat at the local Barnes and Noble. I quickly surveyed the pages and soon found myself reading to gauge interest. Twenty minutes passed and the book was still in my hands. A few minutes later there it sat in a rain splattered plastic Barnes and Noble bag resting on the front seat of my Sienna. This was a rare risk for me. I am not prone to spontaneous and careless purchases of books and especially one with an author and book I never knew existed. Well, I took the book home and in the next few days I found myself unable to stop turning the pages until I found the last one.

So what did Sven Birket write that so consummed me? The quick answer? Sven Birkert offered himself as dialoging partner of eleven great novels.

In "Reading Life," Sven Birkerts surveys a list of eleven great novels and how they uncovered a bevy of insights in his personal thinking and formation. Through each title Birkerts openly shares personal thoughts and recollected memories parelleling the specific novel selection such as "The Catcher in the Rye," and Knut Hamsun's "Pan." What he uncovers about his reaction and thoughts through the static print of each novel were surprisingly dynamic.

I assert that "Reading Life" is not a selection of elucidations and newer insights attempting to bring greater meaning to eleven great novels. "Reading Life" instead is a provocation to impress your own reactions, life memories, thoughts and feelings through the pages of each book in partner with Sven Birkerts through eleven great titles. "Reading Life," is an invitation to continue the dialogue. Good novel reading is always a two way street, a conversation with the author.
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