Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, August 22, 2005

With Breathless Excitement


If only we could recapture how we read when we were children, burning with interest, with breathless excitement, unwilling to put down our book to eat or sleep. Often we can remember the actual circumstances of where we were sitting, the injunctions of our parents to come to the table or go to bed. My memory of my childhood literary enthusiasms is still vivid. I read The Three Musketeers on a visit to my beloved Aunt Henrietta, in Watseka, Illinois, the time I nearly died.

I can't begin to match Diane Johnson's remembrance of reading The Three Musketeers probably because I never finished the book when I was her age (nine or ten at the time). I bet I read the Classics Illustrated comic though but sadly I don't remember the circumstances of that either. I do remember where I was when I read the classic Mickey Mouse comic story, "Island in the Sky." I was waiting for a pizza with my parents and I remember being very upset with myself for getting a drop of oil from the pizza on the comic. The disparity in these remembrances probably accounts for the fact that I am pounding out these words for this blog while Diane Johnson is writing a timeless book like Into A Paris Quartier (National Geographic Directions, 2005). Mystery fans may remember Johnson as the author of Dashiell Hammett: A Life. The thing I find most mysterious is that on the copyright page it shows Johnson's year of birth as 1934 which would put her at 70 or 71 years of age. If that is a recent photo of her on the inside back cover maybe we should all depart for Paris posthaste.

Johnson's book is the latest entry in a wonderful series from National Geographic. In an age of $15 trade paperbacks, these books look to be a real bargain at $20 for a hardcover. They feature attractive cover design and even the endpapers are impressive enough to make you want to collect the whole series (there appears to be about 20 so far). A combination of travel narrative with a bit of history sprinkled in, I have found them to be quite addictive though I have yet to actually purchase one (I've taken them out of the library so far).

I recently read in another book about Paris that there are some 10,000 books about Paris and this is a great addition to that collection. Suddenly though I am feeling kind of poor because I only have a handful.

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