Daily Archives: March 17, 2014

A Passion for Books : Edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan

A Passion for Books Title: A Passion for Books: A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books
Edited by: Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 9780812931136
Genre: Non-Fiction, Bibliophile, Books, Reading
Pages: 384
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Books about books and more books about books. That is almost four times that I have used books in a sentence and it only feels less. The joy of reading yet another book about books, collectors, book lovers, book stores and more only feels more exhilarating as an experience. As though, nothing compares to it or everything is pale in comparison. There are so many stories booklovers share – from where they bought a particular book to what they loved or did not love at all. It is almost an ocean ready to unravel its mysteries and what lies within. The treasury of books, a different world which readers inhabit and do not ever want to come out of.

“A Passion for Books” is a treat for book lovers. It is a compilation of essays of various authors, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan. The editing has been done to the tee with the right amount of precision needed for a book like this. The book can be read from anywhere and that to me is definitely one of the plus points of this book. Right from a second-hand bookshop experience, to the top 100 books of the century to Pillow books and what makes them that, everything is here.

One cannot forget the contributors – from John Updike to Umberto Eco to Milton to Anna Quindlen – all of these and more talk of their book passions and why books are so important to them. More so, the introduction is by Ray Bradbury, which is a bonus in so many ways. I can go back to rereading this book anytime. The beauty, like I said, lies in starting from any page and perhaps only reading an essay or two and yet it feels so fulfilling. Full marks to the editors for compiling this wondrous book of book love and essays on reading. Also, don’t miss out on the book quotes at the end of every chapter. They also add to the charm.

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I was thinking about clubbing these two Novel Cure Challenge Reads together and it only made sense – considering how similar the protagonists are. Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary are bound to be clubbed. I remember reading and rereading these books for the longest time and somehow in a very strange way, I could relate to them. I am not married. I am not a woman. There has been no instance of adultery then, of course, but still there is some affinity which I cannot name or pinpoint. I am only too glad to have reread these books. They certainly brought back a lot of memories.

We all know (or at least most of us do) how it works out for these feisty women. Both stuck in unhappy marriages. I think it would be apt to call their marriages boring, or rather the men they are married to. Charles Bovary almost comes across as a dullard who could not care less about Emma’s youth or her desires or what she wants from life. Anna Karenina on the other hand has everything she could want, but somehow the all-consuming love is just not there, till she meets Count Vronsky.

Emma’s life is ridden with men – her father, her husband, her neighbour, the greedy moneylender, the pharmacist, the pharmacist’s assistant, and her two lovers. She knows it will only end in disaster and yet she wants it all, just like Anna. Anna knows the Russian societal norms and yet she will go to any length to get what she wants. Both these nineteenth-century heroines risk it all, for there is only one life to live. All they want is passion. They want love and they just keep searching for it, everywhere they can. Even if it means they have to end it by giving up their lives. Every time I have read these books, I wished they would come out of it alive and they don’t. I know it but I want to believe that everything works out for them, though it does for some time. These novels were also written in times when both countries, Russia and France were going through changing times. Maybe that is why they were considered so radical for their time.

I have never intended to read these classics with a lot of analysis. For me, they are just testimonies to what I connect to relate to – all the unrequited love, the trapped lives dictated by hypocritical societies and the alienation of the self, despite being loved and surrounded by many.

The anguish of the women comes through superbly in both these books and to me what is also surprising is that these books were written by men. Men who were very strong in their own way and manner and extremely eccentric as well, not to mention, womanizers – maybe that is why they could capture the feminine essence with such aplomb in both these works.

The translations again, when it comes to classics such as these matter the most. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Anna Karenina) and Lydia Davis (Madame Bovary) have done more than just a wonderful job with the words and their interpretation. I think for me most of the time loving these two classics have come from these translations. And yes I also think that perhaps there is no cure for adultery. You have to go through it. There is no moral ground. Anything for happiness, I think.

Next Up in the Novel Cure Challenge: Patience by John Coates