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Posts Tagged ‘Big’

Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America

December 28, 2012 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

I was dragging my five-year-old daughter through the musty stacks of my favorite used bookstore last spring when a middle-aged man, squatting in the Sci-Fi section next to a brimming cardboard box, caught my eye and reminded me of someone.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “are you a writer?”

“I am,” he said, standing up and straightening his glasses. His eyes were deep set and hard to read. He was bashful.

“Are you Michael Dirda?” I asked.

“I am.”

It was him: the book critic and author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, known apocryphally as the best-read man in America, whose essays had enticed me to read everything from Little, Big to Three Men in a Boat—and here he was, squinting his way through the lowest shelves in the same crusty bargain dungeon I came to all the time.

“Amazing. Nina, this is the man who wrote that little letter that we have in your George and Martha,” I told my daughter. Nina was nonplussed.

“When I was eight, in 1992,” I explained, “I wrote a letter to the Washington Post when James Marshall died and you printed it in the Book World section and even wrote a sweet little response. And her grandpa put a photocopy of that letter in The Complete George and Martha for her.”

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Staff Picks: ‘The Univited Guests,’ ‘Capital’

January 27, 2012 | by

I am always interested in reading about Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, and all the more so when a profile begins thusly: “Yayoi Kusama is 82 years old. But when she is wheeled in, on her blue polka-dotted wheelchair, she looks more like a baby, the sort you might see played by an adult in a British pantomime.” —Sadie Stein

“My middle-aged memories of the house by the sea, like the photographs my family took there, are caught up in the frothy state of betwixt-and-between that gave the place its grain: sharp grass and velvet mud, rush of water and crunch of shell, placid exteriors and rough-planked rooms.” So begins one story in Matthew Battles’s first collection, The Sovereignties of Invention. As one might expect from the author of Library: An Unquiet History, Battles owes a debt to Borges—but it’s the right kind of debt. His fables unfold against a hi-res real world, with close attention to everyday detail, in a prose that is precise, concise, musical, and alive. —Lorin Stein

At St. Ann’s Warehouse, Daniel Kitson makes a wonderful show of stuttering, stumbling, and giggling his way through It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later, his endearing and thoughtful one-man play about two long lives and the short moment at which they intersect. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

If these gray days inspire a need for a good, old-fashioned Gothic country-house read, I recommend Sadie Jones’s The Uninvited GuestsI will spend the weekend happily curled up with it. —S.S.

Sunday I stayed in bed all morning with the galleys of John Lanchester’s Capital. Didn’t even get up to make coffee. —L.S.

Soon I’ll be settling down to reread John Crowley’s Little, Big— a family saga, a fantasy, a journey from the small to the large and back again. I think, while under its spell, I could be snowed in all season: “‘In winter,’ Grandfather Trout said, ‘summer is a myth. A report, a rumor. Not to be believed in.’”  —Josh Anderson

I have no idea what to say about this, but I read it and was thoroughly amazed. —Natalie Jacoby

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