BOOKS ARE BASIC by Lawrence Clark Powell


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When Winston Churchill wrote ""It is a good thing. . .to read books of quotations,"" he was almost assuredly referring to those collections of the aphorisms and apercus that encapsulate the thoughts of a variety of the world's writers, politicians, philosophers and critics. When even as slim a volume as Books Are Basic is devoted to the musings of a single author, however, there is a danger of the same few chords being struck with maddening repetitiousness. Unfortunately, that danger has not been avoided in this compilation of quotations from the writings of Powell, librarian emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles. Editor John David Marshall has arranged these gleanings from Powell's works into four sections: ""On Books and Reading""; ""On Libraries, Librarians, and Librarianship""; ""On Writers and Writing,"" and ""On Lawrence Clark Powell."" Perhaps because he finds the category the least ""abstract,"" Powell is at his best when discussing specific books and authors. Here, he is able to air his likes and dislikes from an idiosyncratic point of view that lends freshness and piquancy to his observations. On the lecherous Casanova, for example, Powell comments, "". . .as long as Casanova could, he did; and when he arrived at the age when he couldn't, he wrote."" Powell advises some future moon traveler to ""put Walden in your pocket,"" and admits he has yet to read War and Peace. ""It's too long,"" he notes with acerbity. Elsewhere, Powell's insights range from precious to pedestrian. Books are good; reading is worthwhile; librarians should care about books--hardly the sort of thing to send readers racing into their nearest public library or neighborhood bookstore. While the motives behind the publication of this salute to a distinguished librarian are doubtlessly commendable, the average reader, unfamiliar with Powell's oeuvre (listed in a ""bibliography"" at the end) will wonder what the talk of ""memorable and quotable"" in Marshall's ""Foreword"" is all about.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1985
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona Press