A Passion for Books by Dale Salwak (eds.)

By Dale Salwak (eds.)

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I was fascinated by this reaction, not because I felt anything in the least like it myself, but because I saw that the author had indeed exposed himself to the jurywoman, sensitized her, appalled her. He had created a world - a world inside his own art - with which she wanted nothing to do. She had certainly responded passionately to the novel, but it was, so to speak, an inverted or reversed passion, a passion of abhorrence. 28 John Bayley And yet this invention by the novelist of a world of his own good or bad - is probably the crux of the matter.

Mencken, an author whose name he had come across in that morning's paper. ) After a very nervous-making exchange, the young black man, whose name happens to be Richard Wright, is given two Mencken titles: one of these is A Book of Prefaces. Wright, in Black Boy, his autobiography, provides an account of the effect of his reading H. L. Mencken for the first time: That night in my rented room, while letting the hot water run over my can of pork and beans in the sink, I opened A Book of Prefaces and began to read.

It is clear that the author of the novel regards this arrangement as quite normal, but is amused by it, as she takes for granted her readers will be too. Indeed, and at this distance of time, we can see there are several quite subtle sociological points involved. Reading in those days was not, as it is today, a rather unusual occupation, nor was it found among a literate and superior social class. On the contrary, it conferred no social status at all: it was as 'democratic' as bingo is today. The girl who is paid to read the books, so that she can advise the customers, acquires no prestige from doing so - rather the opposite - and the young 'lady' who gives the library a social cachet does so because she is above the mere reading of books.

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