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Archive for July 3rd, 2009

July 3rd, 2009 • Posted in Literary Criticism

Lists are all well and fine, but it’s the justification that counts…

Newsweek’s Book section seems to be taking out all the stops on the glib-two-sentence-justification-of-must-read book lists. First with these 50 because "what we…need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways. Which is why we’d like you to sit down with Anthony Trollope, and these 49 other remarkably trenchant voices.’

This is of course fine. But what we really need is a considered justification for why these, rather than another, 50 voices are the ones you’ve exhorted us to listen to.

Next, we get nine authors giving us the ‘essential’ books in their fields of expertise. Patricia Cornwall’s for example are:

In Cold Blood
American Rust
The Silence of the Lambs

Great. I love this kind of shit. The Guardian has been doing it very well for years, if not decades. But, why not do something a little more thought provoking Newsweek, get Patricia and the gang to give us something really interesting to chew on: why they chose the books they chose.

There is in fact a book that does a pretty good job on this front. It’s called The Top Ten by J. Peder Zane.


July 3rd, 2009 • Posted in Nigel Beale Bookstore Photos

New versus Old

In Washington for July 4th celebrations. Visited

Bartleby’s Books in Georgetown near the hotel

and was impressed with all the poetry and literature titles, many of them in attractively jacketted hardcover editions. Came across a first of George Steiner’s Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, published by Faber for $15. By coincidence, I saw the same book in paperback, new, for close to $30 right around the corner.

Not that this is a knock against Bridge Street. Really well stocked poetry and lit crit sections, and a good selection of interesting books out front at discount prices.