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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Michael Dirda

Recently I posted about the new translation of War and Peace and linked to the review, published in the Washington Post, by Michael Dirda. At the time I wasn't really familiar with Mr. Dirda; I think I must have linked there through Arts and Letters Daily, or 3quarksdaily (both excellent sources of cultural content, the former being the most comprehensive of the two).

But then I came across a mention of Dirda's most recent book, Classics for Pleasure and have now come to appreciate him for the national treasure that he is. He appears to have read and absorbed virtually everything ever written - AND - has the ability to discuss it all with complete cogency.

Right now I'm dipping into an earlier book, Bound to Please, subtitled "An Extraordinary One-volume Literary Education". It's a collection of short essays (standard book-review length) on a wide assortment of books. It's divided into roughly chronological segments, but there's no need to read the essays in any particular order. Plunge in anywhere and you're bound to hit on something you just have to read NEXT. My list so far: The Arabian Nights: A Companion (Robert Irwin), Tales from Ovid (Ted Hughes), The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh (Charlotte Mosley, ed), Bruce Chatwin, A Biography (Nicholas Shakespeare).

Some interesting essays in the "Coda", as well. In "Classrooms and Their Discontents" he discusses the problems we face in educating our young. He writes, in part, "Our educational system will remain mediocre until parents, especially well-to-do successful parents, urge their brightest children to become high school math and history teachers". Something to chew on!

He still writes a weekly piece in the Sunday Washington Post. Since I'm not a reader I arranged to get the posts via RSS, along with all the rest of the WaPo book section which I'll probably just delete. I may have come late to the party, but - from here on - I don't want to miss anything.


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