Open Book: Chapters From A Readers Life by Michael DirdaOpen Book: Chapters From A Readers Life by Michael Dirda

Open Book: Chapters From A Readers Life

byMichael Dirda

Paperback | December 7, 2004

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"All that kid wants to do is stick his nose in a book," Michael Dirda's steelworker father used to complain, worried about his son's passion for reading. In An Open Book, one of the most delightful memoirs to emerge in years, the acclaimed literary journalist Michael Dirda re-creates his boyhood in rust-belt Ohio, first in the working-class town of Lorain, then at Oberlin College. In addition to his colorful family and friends, An Open Book also features the great writers and fictional characters who fueled Dirda's imagination: from Green Lantern to Sherlock Holmes, from Candy to Proust. The result is an affectionate homage to small-town America—summer jobs, school fights, sweepstakes contests, and first dates—as well as a paean to what could arguably be called the last great age of reading. "Dirda is a superb literary essayist."—Harold Bloom "Michael Dirda's memoir—no surprise to me—is so good that I went up to the attic meaning to send him one of my antique Big Little books as a salute to excellence...A great job. I'll be buying An Open Book for my children and grandchildren."—Russell Baker, author of Growing Up "Here, in An Open Book, is the show and tell of a wonderful American story, everything coming together in the immemorial dance of literature and memory, of history and gossip, and of the deeply felt, bittersweet story (his own) of a young life. Read it and rejoice."—George Garrett "A lovely, unapologetically nostalgic remembrance of growing up in a more innocent America, but it is also the touching story of one person's lifelong love affair with words."—June Sawyer, San Francisco Chronicle "Dirda inhabits each book he reads. Inhabits it—and makes a space alongside it for us to join him....He is a rare treasure."—James Sallis, Boston Sunday Globe
Michael Dirda, who won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism at the Washington Post Book World, is the author of An Open Book, Bound to Please, and Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Title:Open Book: Chapters From A Readers LifeFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.05 inPublished:December 7, 2004Publisher:WW NortonLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0393326144

ISBN - 13:9780393326147


Rated 4 out of 5 by from See the early influences on a literary book reviewer PLOT OR PREMISE: The author is a book reviewer for the Washington Post; this is the story of his life up until graduation from university. . WHAT I LIKED: "Dirda was recommended to me by a colleague from work, whose appetites for reading are far more literary than mine. He actually recommended Bound to Please, which is a collection of Dirda’s reviews of more literary prose from throughout history, but I tripped over this book first. I’m quite glad I did as I probably won’t read the collection of essays until I’ve read most of the tomes reviewed, but An Open Book is a fantastic autobiography. It reads in some place like Angela’s Ashes without the darkness of Irish poverty. However, it is not without conflict or family dysfunction during the author’s childhood, and he tells the story in places with openness and unashamed personal bias. The main part of the story recounts Dirda’s intellectual progress as he moved through comic strips from the newspaper (p.49), pun and joke books (everyone sing: “great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts”!), the TAB book club (p.66), the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift series (p.90), a brief stint with romance novels (p.201), and the importance of great literature to challenging society and even changing history (p.290). It also includes his non-literary education – playing with BB guns (p.81), understanding firsthand how hard his father’s job was (p.185), learning about art and music (p.267), the ceasing to care about grades when writing essays and the corresponding improvements in marks (p.310), the contribution of early influences in his life to later character traits (p.320), and looking back at one’s life (p.321). The book recounts his life relatively linearly in time, yet with lots of interesting digressions that veer away from developments in his personal life and situation with the texts he was reading at the time. " . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It would have been interesting to see more of the reactions from teachers throughout the author’s life, including perhaps even tracking some of them down. It is hard to imagine exactly how certain ones would have reacted to his precocious reading of more advanced novels, and the existing allusions to some of their reactions are rudimentary at best. As well, the final decision (to become a freelance journalist upon leaving university) is rushed in the story, and negates much of the relaxed pace to that point. . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.
Date published: 2016-03-06

Editorial Reviews

"Dirda inhabits each book he reads. Inhabits it--and makes a space alongside it for us to join him. . . . He is a rare treasure."