Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Rooting Interest: Memoirs

Over the weekend, we hosted the book club. As hosts, we chose the book, and it was my turn; I chose In Plato's Cave by Alvin Kernan. There were only two persons who definitely disliked the book, four who strongly liked it, and the rest at least found it interesting. Some, even of those who liked the book, disliked the author.

Need one like an author to enjoy a memoir? I would say No, or at least "not without qualification." It is probably about two centuries too late to take the Rousseau of The Confessions at his own valuation, or anything like it, yet simply as a document the book is worth reading, and it has plenty of laughs that the author may not have intended. One reads William Alexander Percy's Lanterns on the Levee with wonder at his ability to see the world as he wished to; nevertheless, it says something about a place and time that one can read and make allowances for. M.F.K. Fisher's Among Friends is wonderful reading, but there is something cold in it; extraneous to the book are all the biographies that have come out since, and which make it clear that she would have been a fascinating acquaintance but a bit dangerous to be closer to. I have my reservations about Albert Jay Nock as he reveals himself in Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, a book I enjoyed reading.

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