A longtime writer in a variety of genres presents a potpourri of pieces, arranged thematically, from the past few decades.
Acclaimed essayist Spufford (English and Comparative Literature/Goldsmiths Coll., Univ. of London; Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York, 2017, etc.) offers not just a variety of subjects here, but also a variety of sources. Some were originally blog posts; others, traditional journalism, including book reviews and features; still others, talks and speeches, many of which have been revised. Throughout the collection—in texts dating back to the 1990s (though most are of recent vintage)—run a number of brightly colored threads. Among them is the author’s vast and passionate reading and his fondness for technology. He peppers each essay—though never excessively so—with allusions to numerous other cultural figures, ranging from Shelley (husband and wife) to James Bond, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Francis Bacon, Pinocchio, and Oscar Wilde. Spufford’s affection for books, even when tacit, is patent. He writes about the excitement of entering the world of a book—comparing it to breaking the seal on a new container of instant coffee—and about the emotions of finishing a book. As a book reviewer (he includes a few samples here), the author displays a generosity of spirit, a willingness to try to discover what the writer was trying to do, and he provides long appreciations of Kipling and of the Arabian Nights. Although his political liberalism continually comes through, he will no doubt disappoint some liberal readers new to his work with his sturdy defense of Christianity. Also included are several sharp pieces that rebuke the “new atheists” (Richard Dawkins et al.) as well as some impressive pieces about the Soviet Union, which, at one time, “had a reputation that is now almost impossible to recapture.”
A bibliophagist snacks and dines, sharing with us some of the tastiest bits.