A gift of pleasure from one reader to another.

WHY I READ

THE SERIOUS PLEASURE OF BOOKS

A lover of books reflects on her abiding passion.

More than a decade ago, Threepenny Review founder and editor Lesser (Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets, 2012, etc.) wrote about the pleasures and insights gained from rereading (Nothing Remains the Same, 2002). Now, in a kind of prequel to that book, the author steps back to ask a broader question: Why read at all? “I am not really asking about motivation,” she admits, but rather about what “delights” and “rewards” she gets. Her responses, thoughtful as they are, offer few surprises. She reads “for meaning, for sound, for voice—but also for something I might call attentiveness to reality, or respect for the world outside oneself.” For Lesser, literary characters are more alive than actual people, and she sometimes finds it “hard to keep in mind” that authors “were all living, once.” Literature functions as a “time-travel machine of sorts”: Faulkner has taken her to the South, Dostoevsky to 19th-century Russia, Rohinton Mistry to the slums of Bombay. Her quest to discover why she reads is inseparable from the question of how she reads, which includes noting characterization and plot, as well as the quality of a writer’s voice, authority and empathy. She uses the term “grandeur” to refer to “panoramic or telescopic” views of reality that allow an author “to get at some kind of massive truth that is hidden behind the facades of daily existence.” Lesser has clear favorites among writers, with Henry James at the pinnacle. She prefers Thornton Wilder’s innovative plays to the self-aggrandizing fiction of James Joyce. Among D.H. Lawrence’s works, Sons and Lovers, she believes, is far greater than Lady Chatterley’s Lover. She has read books on an iPad and iPhone but loves the feel, smell—the solidity—of bound pages. She ends her celebration of books with 100 titles, culled through “excruciating excisions and hesitant substitutions.”

A gift of pleasure from one reader to another.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-28920-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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