Reading in Bed
by Steven Gilbar
"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight. We all read too much, too fast. I am taking the summer off to work slowly through several books that are due for a second reading." - Robertson Davies
What do Emerson, Proust, Nabokov, and Calvino all have in common beyond the fact they were all great authors? They all wrote fascinating essays on the art of reading books. Steven Gilbar, a lawyer who is foremost a reader, selected and edited a delightful compilation of essays on books and reading for this tantalizing book, Reading in Bed. The essays range from those by classic authors like Montaigne, Hazlitt and Ruskin to modern notables like Marcel Proust, Henry Miller, Italo Calvino and Graham Greene. The entries from notable essayists include a couple of my favorites: Joseph Epstein and Sven Birkerts. The essay by Robertson Davies whose final paragraph is quoted above reminds me of the pleasure I have gained from rereading books that I love, most of which would be considered great. Some of those readings have been spaced out over my life while others have been bunched together in the several decades of my maturity. They include disparate writers and genres but all are books that I look forward to reading again. I have enjoyed reading and rereading massive classics like War and Peace, Middlemarch, and The Brothers Karamazov, along with smaller classics like Cather's My Antonia, Maugham's The Razor's Edge, and Lagerkvist's The Dwarf.
The one thing all these essays share is a transcendence, but they also have the ability to trigger new insights into the text and its message for our lives. They amplify and magnify the experience of reading while acting as a catalyst for further reading. The inclusion of a bibliography provides suggestions for further reading in the essays of these authors on subjects that are likely to be just as stimulating as those on reading. The compilation maintains a high level of excellence throughout without losing its entertainment value, at least for passionate and serious readers. I keep it by my bedside.
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