Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books (Paperback)
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"Wendy Lesser's extraordinary alertness, intelligence, and curiosity have made her one of America's most significant cultural critics," writes Stephen Greenblatt. In "Why I Read," Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country, "The Threepenny Review," to describe her love of literature. As Lesser writes in her prologue, "Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it."
Here the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. As she examines these works from such perspectives as "Character and Plot," "Novelty," "Grandeur and Intimacy," and "Authority," "Why I Read "sparks an overwhelming desire to put aside quotidian tasks in favor of reading. Lesser's passion for this pursuit resonates on every page, whether she is discussing the book as a physical object or a particular work's influence. "Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different," she writes. "It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else's past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times."
A book in the spirit of E. M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel "and Elizabeth Hardwick's "A View of My Own," "Why I Read "is iconoclastic, conversational, and""full of insight. It will delight those who are already""avid readers as well as neophytes in search of sheer""literary fun.""
About the Author
Wendy Lesser is the author of His Other Half: Men Looking at Women through Art, Pictures at an Execution, and A Director Calls (Faber and Faber, UK, 97), a bio. of Stephen Daldry. Lesser was also editor of Hiding in Plain Sight: Essays in Criticism and Autobiography. Her latest book, The Amateur, is an intellectual biography in which she explores the intersection of art and experience (Pantheon, 99). A winner of the Pen/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing in 1997, Lesser lives in California where she is the editor of The Threepenny Review.