Monday, January 23, 2012

On Rereading and Forgotten Bookmarks


Reading about books or about reading is a genuine pleasure for the bibliophile. January brought two books on those topics.

Book 4: Forgotten Bookmarks by Michael Popek

Forgotten Bookmarks is unadulterated book porn.

The author, Michael Popek, works in his family’s used bookstore.

As books were purchased for sale in the store, Popek observed that occasionally there were objects tucked into the pages of the books . . . letters, photographs, pressed flowers, baseball cards and recipes.

He began to catalog his finds on forgottenbookmarks.com. Now, he’s doing the same thing in the pages of this book of the same name.  Each page features a high-resolution photograph of a book and the object that was found within it.

Popek tells about the book . . . the title, author, publisher and year of publication. He also furnishes details about the treasure hidden inside.  A photograph, for example, is reproduced along with any writing on the flip side.  Letters are transcribed.

Among the more unusual items are beer coasters, four-leaf covers and seven razor blades inside Stenciling With Style.

It’s a lovely book that will resonate with habitu├ęs of used book stores, who have certainly uncovered their own treasures through the years. 

Book 11: On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks

Spacks is a professor of English at the University of Virginia, about 50 miles down the road from me through Civil War battlefields, Virginia horse country and the Piedmont.

In On Rereading she explores rereading. Some people scorn it, but others – such as Spacks – understand that rereading has values uniquely its own.

She explores those values, which include the pleasure of revisiting a favorite book from childhood, uncovering new depths of meaning within a novel or stumbling upon the realization that the book may not have changed, but the reader has; a realization that can be equally disturbing or gratifying.

“I want to use rereading as a way to think about reading . . . but questions about the worth of rereading as an act in itself lie at the heart of my present investigation, which aspires to discover the significance and consequence of this activity. Rereading can appear like avoidance, yet I believe that it constitutes a form of engagement,” Spacks writes.

There’s an academic undertone to On Rereading, but it’s not a trudge. Spacks clearly loves reading just as much as anyone who is attracted to this book. Her love of reading guarantees that there will be moments, perhaps many of them, when the reader sees himself reflected in Spacks’s work.

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