Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"A Reading Diary" by Alberto Manguel

Published: 2004
Read: 2011
Genre: Non-fiction; memoir
Rating: 4
Author's web site

In the forward, Manguel likened books to the universe before it came into being.
"This latent existence should surprise no reader, for whom every book exists in a dreamlike condition until the hands that open it and the eyes that peruse it stir the words into awareness,  The following pages are my attempt to record a few such awakenings."
Manguel's goal was to re-read a favorite book each month and record his thoughts, reflections, impressions and memories - anything that was prompted by his reading.   A scene, setting, character or quote could set him off on a tangential thought of another book, or of a long forgotten memory, a dream, wish, hope or epiphany.  The following is a perfect example of how a piece of dialogue from Don Quixote made him think about his need to be an owner rather than a borrower.
"Don Quixote tells Cardenio that he has "more than three hundred books" back home.  Cervantes' books (and books on Cervantes) occupy three shelves in my own library.  I notice that I still have the book on Cervantes that Javier Cercas insisted on lending me.  I must send it back...There is something of the visitor who outstays his welcome in borrowed books.  Reading them and knowing that they don't belong to me gives me the feeling of something unfinished, half enjoyed.  This is also true of library books."
It was interesting to see evidence of a thoughtful reader at work; one who thought how to apply his reading to daily life:
"I like Badger very much.  He doesn't mind a certain neglect of manners, "nor did he take any notice of elbows on the table, or everybody speaking at once.  As he did not go into society himself, he had got an idea that these things belongs to the things that didn't really matter."  Note: It might be useful to compile a list of "things that don't really matter". Such a list would enormously alleviate my daily lot of worrying."

A stinging rebuke regarding authors like Casares, that are unknown by most readers.  My note to self: expand my own reading to translations of authors from other countries.
"The ignorance of the English speaking reader never ceases to amaze me."
I enjoyed this little reading diary as evidenced by the many quotes in my own journal.

Other books by author:

  • A History of Reading
  • The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
  • The Library at Night

Twelve books read and referenced:

  • The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
  • The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • Memoirs from Beyond the Grave by Francoise-Rene de Chateubriand
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Don Quixiote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
  • The Pillow by Sei Shonagon
  • Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
  • The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

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