"What wide reading teaches is the richness, the complexity, the mystery of life. I have come to believe there is something deeply apolitical something above politics in literature, despite what feminist, Marxist, and other politicized literature critics might think. If at the end of a long life of reading the chief message you bring away is that women have had it lousy, or that capitalism stinks, or that attention must above all be paid to victims, then I'd say you just might have missed something." --Joseph Epstein in "The Pleasures of Reading" from the anthology Narcissus Leaves the Pool.
I have a small green spiral notebook that I record other people's quotes in. I have had it for twelve years--started way before I learned to blog.
There are none of my own deep thoughts in the notebook--just brilliant stuff that other people have said.
Today I found a quote I really liked at work, but my notebook is at home. So I figured I'd share it with you all. And I just did.
You can stop reading right now if you want. All I really wanted to do was share the quote.
Or you can continue reading on for context and learn how and why I found the quote about reading.
Tomorrow is book selection day at San Francisco's favorite women's club.
In preparation, this morning, I checked out the New York Times Sunday Book Review, the Keplers independent bookstore (Menlo park) Web site www.keplers.com and the Indie Booklist http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bestsellers
And last, but not least, I consulted my 32 page hard copy of Book Passage News and Reviews, a newsletter from the Book Passage independent bookstore based in Corte Madera, California (www.bookpassage.com) with a smaller branch at Ferry Plaza in San Francisco.
The newsletter comes out six times a year--get on the mailing list NOW--and has book reviews, columns, and a list of classes, writer's conferences and book groups held at one of the store locations. I check out the book group page which lists local leaders and selections. And I always get a kick out of the selections chosen by Joe Herzberg, who describes himself as "a Marin psychiatrist with a good enough degree in American Studies."
Joe's group is called The Man's Point of View. Not sure if you have to be a guy to be in it. I do know that if I lived closer to Book Passage Corte Madera, and they let women attend, I would want to be in it.
In introducing his selection rationale, Joe (he eschews Dr. Joe in his byline) says, "Our authors here are pros at their trade, but often judge themselves amateurs at manhood and life--but, maybe that'd be good enough for them, and for the rest of us. Come join our book discussion of this and other issues."
Here are Joe's picks for 2010
Manhood for Amateurs : The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son (2008) by Michael Chabon --about Chabon's experiences with fatherhood
Open: An Autobiography (2009) by Andre Agassi--a book about the famous tennis player's life that reviewers love even if they don't love tennis. I am going to do this book with at least one of my book groups.
Narcissus Leaves the Pool (1999) by Joseph Epstein.
Okay, I didn't know anything about Chicago born Epstein, but you gotta love the title, Narcissus Leaves the Pool.
So I looked Epstein up. And what I learned is that he teaches literature at Northwestern University and was the editor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society's American Scholar for 23 years. He has written novels and essays and his work shows up in the New Yorker.
Not sure why Herzberg is choosing the essays right now--having let eleven years lapse since publication. But they sure sound relevant to men of a certain age--who often populate book groups.
Here's some of the 1999 review from Publishers Weekly:
Epstein (Life Sentences)... always engages his reader, providing access to his knowledge instead of merely lecturing. For example, when expounding upon the delights of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he makes the reader with no knowledge of Gibbon feel as if she, too, might pick up the volumes and breeze through them. Many of the essays are powerful: using himself as an example, Epstein charts his growing fears of aging and death to painful and provocative effect, and his descriptions of the human body are wrenching. His elegantly turned sentences reveal quirks and cultural musings with a comic touch that is light, but never flippant. The best essays achieve classical balance in a completely modern voice.
If you are a man in a book group--I'd love to hear what you are reading.
Are the both men and women in your group--or just men?
If your group is co-ed , did your wife or girlfriend make you go?
Causes Lauren John Supports
Keplers Bookstore Circle of Friends (Menlo Park)
Friends of the Menlo Park Public Library
Book Group Expo
Marin Agricultural Land Trust...