Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel

A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel

This is a collection of short essays by Alberto Manguel. Alberto Manguel wrote The Dictionary of Imaginary Places and was an editor for many years. He muses on his own identity as a reader by talking about many personal issues on reading. He has an essay of the Legend of the Wandering Jew as a reader as well as comments on Jorge Luis Borges defense of Jewish culture. The author is Argentinian and pulls from the South American literary tradition.

He opens many of the essays with a quote from Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass and a picture from one of these books. This adds an inquisitive quality to the essays. I like many of his quotes and thoughts from Borges because Borges was a librarian and a fantasist in the tradition of magical realism. The essays remind me of thoughts that might have come out of The Phantom Tollbooth or Un Lun Dun.

Most of the essays are about the the experience of reading and being a reader. I especially liked the essay on Don Quixote, entitled Time and The Doleful Knight on Pp. 182-186. I can relate to Cervantes even though I have not read him..

Alberto Manguel attempts to list the qualities of the ideal reader and the ideal writer in two separate essays. They are quite delightful, even though I would not agree with many of them. Alberto Manguel has a deep relationship with books. He has a personal library of some 30,000 books. He wrote about this in an earlier book, The Library At Night.

There is also some discussion of technology in this book. The essay, Saint Augustine's Computer on Pp. 187-198 describes the differences between the printed word and the word on the screen. They are quite significant. He claims the printed word is less ephemeral and easier to subject to deep analysis than what appears on a computer screen.

Some of the issues in the book are quite political. Alberto Manguel grew up under Peron's government. He describes many of the problems with literature, writing, and reading that occur under repressive regimes. He also discusses Che Guevara and his impact on literature. This makes for some interesting, if a bit pointed commentary.

There is a lot to recommend in this book. It has a well done index, a very extensive bibliography, and a nice feel to the book. The book is set in Fourier Type and is quite easy to read. It is printed by Yale University Press. It is an excellent book that is well worth reading.

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