Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Browsings," by Michael Dirda

I usually savor books about books and reading. For example, I recently read and posted (1/5/17) very enthusiastically about editor/writer Robert Gottlieb’s book memoir “Avid Reader.” My enjoyment of that book reminded me anew to keep an eye out for related books. I then picked up Michael Dirda’s “Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books” (Pegasus, 2015), a collection of short essays that he had originally written for The American Scholar. Dirda, a “longtime book columnist” for the Washington Post, as well as a writer for various periodicals and author of several books, here writes on a miscellany of books and book-related personal stories. It is the type of thing I would normally enjoy, but I did so only intermittently in this case. Why? First, Dirda mostly (in this collection, at least) writes about science fiction, thrillers, obscure popular fiction, and other genres that are not of much interest to me. Second, he focuses on his collecting of books, with many stories of all the bookstores, auctions, sales, conventions, etc., that he attends, and how he keeps buying more and more books despite not having room for them in his house. He describes himself as an addict, but clearly finds no problem with his obsessive collecting. Which is of course absolutely fine, but to be honest, rather dull and even off-putting to read about in such detail. Third, his style and voice are a bit too “hail fellow well met,” jokey, and faux-modest for my taste. Of course I have favorable feelings about any one who loves books as much as Dirda does, and who reads as extensively as he does. But these other factors got in the way of my enjoyment of the book, and I was happy to reach the end of it (with a little judicious skipping along the way).
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