Just home from a very smart conversation between two thinkers and critics--Marjorie Garber (The Use and Abuse of Literature), and David L. Ulin (The Lost Art of Reading)--whose latest books speak to that intimate act, reading. (If reading is in a "crisis", Garber suggests, that means merely a "turning point" and "bring it on!")
I have to admit (abashed), I went to hear Garber twice during her Los Angeles visit. Professor Garber had been something of an icon to me when I was an adolescent at Harvard University, lodged in the third row of Sanders Theater, in a favorite seat, stage left, listening to her enact the act of reading and questioning Shakespeare. If as Ezra Pound suggests in The ABCs of Reading that we must read a book three times to have truly read it: once when we are younger than the protagonist whose consciousness carries the plot, once when we are their age, and once when we have outlived them (or at least outlived their story), I was giving my second read to Marjorie Garber, herself, now that I am nearly the exact age she must have been when (unless my memory fails me) in matching fuscia miniskirt and heels, she unlocked a lady's jeweled trunk, critical interpretation upon interpretation, with such innuendo and aplomb that I think I once audibly gasped.
I am also a fan of David Ulin's--and particularly of his brave recent little polemic.
And so I'm home with a number of thoughts about reading, and would like to write more on this.
For now, let me simply leave you with two links:
Seth Lerner's review of The Use and Abuse of Literature by Marjorie Garber (Pantheon; 320 pages)