BOOKING IN THE HEARTLAND by Jack Matthews

BOOKING IN THE HEARTLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An amusing ramble through the backwoods of American history and literature, from over the shoulder of an Ohio bibliophile. A novelist and professor of English, as well as a book collector, Matthews writes these memoir essays with craft, balancing plain colloquialisms with the periodic inductions of academe. The collection begins with an essay on wasting time that reveals itself to be a defense of ""booking,"" the avocation of nosing through dusty shelves and boxes at yard sales, auctions, and antique shops. For those without the patience to make their own discoveries, Matthews recounts some of his favorites. A few are serious--a precursor to Melville, the writings of librarian Edmund Lester Pearson--however, many more take a humorous approach, and these are his best pieces. His literary sarcasm shines as he explores quaintly amateurish diaries, letters, old school readers, the execrable poetry of one Count Coffinberry. Nonetheless, a taste for the prose of mediocre 18th- and early 19th-century writers is, at the least, an acquired one. At times, Matthews' fluency in dealing with these texts can be daunting, and his praise of certain writing demands an appreciation of the linguistic context of the era. His occasional efforts to wax sage fall flat, and his brief railing against the ""electronic age"" sounds no less quaint than some of his finds. Nonetheless, these appreciations of forgotten writings are charming and informed.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1986
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press