Notes from the Bookshop 1

I intend to write a post of this kind every time I pick up something interesting from a bookshop. This week I was able to find nice Penguin editions of two books I’ve been looking for, for quite sometime — Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma and Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad.

I’ve been fascinated and mildly smitten by The Charterhouse of Parma ever since I read Phillip Lopate’s beautiful essay in Rereadings. The essay in Italo Calvino’s Why Read the Classics? only served to heighten my enthusiasm. Whether I’ll retain my enthusiasm, once I actually start reading the book, remains to be seen. Sometimes reviews and criticisms happen to be so much more interesting to read than the books being reviewed or criticised. As an aside, both Rereadings (edited by Anne Fadiman) and Why Read the Classics? are wonderful books (essay collections) in themselves. As for Mark Twain, I would have been delighted to find A Tramp Abroad, but The Innocents Abroad is a pretty good find too. It’s an amusing narrative of Twain’s experiences during the course of an organised excursion of “Europe and the Holy Lands”.

Apart from these, I discovered an author I had hitherto been unaware of — Robertson Davies. His Salterton and Deptford trilogies are supposed to be a set of interesting, stylishly written novels. So they’re going into my “to read” list.

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3 Responses to Notes from the Bookshop 1

  1. anuradha says:

    ” I so whole-heartedly agree with this: “Sometimes reviews and criticisms happen to be so much more interesting to read than the books being reviewed or criticised.”
    I have re-read “Rereadings (edited by Anne Fadiman)” atleast hhalf a dozen times and will another dozen times,I’m sure. Yet to read “Why Read the Classics?”
    And am a devotee of Robertson Davies. He is such a great and fine writer !!!

    • Surendran says:

      A nice string of coincidences! I’ve re-read “Reareadings” quite a number of times too. And just as I began to find it funny that I should be re-reading “Rereadings” with such relish, Pradeep Sebastian wrote a piece on doing the same! Now I find that you’re going through the same cycle. Amazing!
      I’m sure you’ll love “Why read the classics?” whenever you read it. Calvino has a way of making the classics sound like they’re the spiciest new bestsellers around. Just sample the opening sentences of his essay on Xenephon’s “Anabasis”: “Reading Xenephon’s Anabasis today is the nearest thing to watching an old documentary which is repeated every so often on television or on video. The same fascination that we experience when watching the black and white of a faded film, with its rather crude contrasts of light and shade and speeded-up movements, emerges almost spontaneously…”

    • Surendran says:

      And happy that my intuition about Robertson Davies proved to be right! Will surely read him now…

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