Reader’s handbook1 min read . Updated: 22 Sep 2019, 10:00 AM IST
- Charles Dantzig’s opinionated book puts our reading habits under the scanner
- From classics to pulp fiction, he provokes us to think about genres and writers from a fresh perspective
The query raised by the title of this slim volume has intrigued many for a long time. It is especially pertinent at present, when reading is increasingly superseded by other diversions promised by electronic gadgets. French writer Charles Dantzig, a self-proclaimed voracious reader, takes the question by its horns and offers a multiplicity of responses. From debating the moral benefits of reading to analysing its practical virtues, he offers sharp vignettes, like Blaise Pascal’s Penseés. Eccentric, outlandish, often fanciful, these reflections will jolt readers and non-readers alike, provoking all of us to interrogate our relationship with books.
From his great love of reading and re-reading Marcel Proust to the ambivalent pleasures of perusing Marguerite Duras, Dantzig is irrepressibly opinionated. He deplores vacuous cheap thrills (Stephenie Meyer, for example) as much as he detests pernicious windbags (Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s anti-Semitism provides an illustration of this type). Dantzig is scathing about bibliophiles compelled to make a song and dance about their bibliophilia. He is encouraging of those who are yet to challenge themselves in their reading habits. While you may not agree with his irate intolerance all the time, Dantzig will leave you with much to mull over the next time you pick up a book.— Somak Ghoshal