Jonathan Yardley's insights will now be found in the Outlook section of the Sunday Washington Post. The erudite yet accessible words of Michael Dirda will grace the Style section. The rest of the Book World staff will continue to contribute to the paper in an as yet undefined way. The online presence of Book World will undoubtedly grow as the role of literary criticism makes its final shifts from print to digital expression. The words, the ideas will not disappear. They will just live elsewhere as the economic necessities of the time require. And yet, I find it very sad. And I will save that last edition when it appears on my doorstep on February 15.
While the news has not been confirmed by the Washington Post yet, the New York Times released the news at lunch time today. One has to wonder how long before the dedicated book sections of both the Times and the San Francisco Chronicle can survive now. I enjoy them both but Book World was unique. Call it authority, gravitas, erudition but also call it accessible. The words from those pages have dictated my reading choices for years, and despite the fact that I know that the Post has committed (at least for the time being) to continue publishing book criticism, I won't know what section to reach for first on Sunday mornings anymore. Unless I subscribe to the New York Times Sunday paper.
Let's throw a little birthday celebration for Virginia Woolf here in the Sunday Salon this January 25. The lovely image you see above comes from the January/February issue of The Atlantic where the new book Mrs. Woolf and the Servants is reviewed. This book is an interesting look at both domestic life and class issues among the Bloomsbury set. As a special birthday present to you, I will mail out a copy of this new book to a winner randomly drawn at the end of the day from the comments on this post. You just need to comment with your favorite Woolf novel or a Woolf novel you have always meant to read. You can even pick the edition you would like - US version on the left and UK version on the right.
What are some of your favorite words from Virginia Woolf? Some of mine shared here:
"But then anyone who's worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm."
This week on Weekly Geeks...
How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don't get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it.
Let's say you're vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don't find her a book, she'll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?
I can still hear Ted's voice. Finished with The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd for over a week now and the protagonist's unique viewpoint stays with me. Ted is a child with Aspergers who attempts to piece through the mystery of his missing cousin Salim as the adults around him fall apart a bit. His brain is a different type of processor than most, and his ability to see past the emotional content of life that often leaves him baffled puts him in the unique position of seeing the material facts of the mystery stripped bare. It is easy to lose track of the fact that Ted is a child as his thoughts are occasionally profound.
That's when I realized that there are two kinds of knowledge: shallow and deep. You can know something in theory but not know it in practice. You can know part of something but not all of it. Knowledge can be like the skin on the surface of the water in a pond, or it can go all the way down into the mud. It can be the tiny tip of the iceberg or the whole hundred percent.
This mystery may not be satisfying for all ages. All is tidily wrapped up at the end but the reader would have been hard pressed to solve this puzzle based upon the evidence presented. It is the process of looking at the evidence that is interesting here, the thought processes behind the conclusions. Interesting that the minds of children sometimes possess greater clarity than those of adults.
For all of you that enjoyed Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you will most certainly enjoy this as well. Haddon's protagonist was a gifted mathematician whereas Ted's interest lies in meteorology, but there are more similarities between the two novels than not. Rumor has it that the books were originally scheduled for release at approximately the same time, but then it was decided that The London Eye Mystery's release would be postponed given the stark likenesses.
Fast and interesting read for everyone, adult or child, that explores both the life of a particular mind and some telling and insightfully presented family interactions as well.
Since “Inspiration” is (or should be) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?
People have been known to white knuckle it while riding in a car that I am driving. I freely admit to arriving places that I have only faint recall about how I got there. My mind is always all over the place. And so is my reading. I simply arrive at some point or book or another, ready for the experience at hand. What inspires me to pick up a certain book? I could make something up, but truly, I do not have the foggiest most times. Just fly by the seat of my pants wherever the moment takes me. It is like being in the food hall at Harrods. How can one possibly choose? Appetite. Subjective.
On the other hand, I do find beautiful libraries to be inspirational places. Temples of knowledge, of belief. Always a bit awestruck at such assemblies of the written word. Trinity College Library in Dublin above. The Library of Congress reading room here in Washington DC below. Two personal favorites. Do you have a favorite library? Is it a source of inspiration for you?
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.