May 11, 2008

Bound to Please by Michael Dirda

I've been reading Michael Dirda's book, Bound to Please, piecemeal for a couple of weeks and have found it to be a fantastic cure for the overtaxed attention span (some week-nights it's even hard for me to concentrate on what the cats mean by "meow", but I read one review and I'm re-engaged and not mentally multi-tasking).

Bound to Please is a selection of Michael Dirda's essays and reviews on lesser known books that deserve to be read. Michael Dirda is the editor of the Washington Post Book Review and holds a PhD in comparative literature (I'm biased on this because I got my MA in comp. lit. and it's still a pretty young field). His insights are educated and erudite, as well as charming and accessible, almost all the time, whether he's writing about Herodotus or Terry Pratchett or a lesser known biography of George Bernard Shaw  (reviews for all of which appear in this book). That he should be both titanically intelligent and a complete lit. geek is just kind of formidably adorable....

OK, at this point, I think it's only fair to admit that I have a crush on Michael Dirda, or least on Michael Dirda's brain. 

But anyway, according to his introduction to Bound to Please (which is charming... sigh) Dirda's whole reason for compiling this particular collection of essays/reviews was to introduce a selection of books that deserve reading but don't often get read. It does this quite nicely too - my 'to read' list has nearly doubled (plus Name of the Rose is getting a bump up in the queue). It was also neat to read his fantastic review/criticism of two books that I already love - Possession by A.S. Byatt and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. 

All in all, if you like reading book reviews (I do) or you enjoy light but insightful literary criticism, Bound to Please is a lovely book to have around. It's the sort of thing you can just pick up and browse through - especially when you're not sure what you want to read next.


awynderw said...

I could not agree more! Michael Dirda is an entertaining and competent reviewer with a wide selection of literary interests. This book is exactly what you say it is - entertaining without leaving the reader to suffer from brain drain. I also recommend Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure, by the same author.

Madeleine said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I've been looking forward to Classics for Pleasure since I heard an interview with Dirda on NPR - I'll bump it (and Book by Book) up on the ever growing list of things I want to read before I die... I should really think about investing in the everlasting life industry :)