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Pondering the way tastes, prejudices, and experiences change over time the very meaning of the words we read, Alberto Manguel adapts a phrase from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus about the deceptive permanence of flowing water: "You never dip into the same book twice," he says. The essays in his collection Into the Looking-Glass Wood are mostly about the pleasures and responsibilities of reading, and Manguel himself--critic, editor, and novelist--might be described as a reader's reader. A university dropout, born in Argentina and expatriated to Canada, Manguel has the erudition and insight of a scholar, but it is his almost childlike exuberance and curiosity that distinguish him from your average literary critic. In lieu of the "systematic reading" set forth in university courses and lists of recommended reading, Manguel insists that "the best guides are the reader's whim--trust in pleasure and faith in haphazardness." Looking-Glass Wood is whimsical in this sense, containing 22 essays, many previously published, on diverse subjects. Manguel celebrates erotic fiction ("I believe that, like the erotic act, the act of reading should ultimately be anonymous."); reflects upon "The Death of Che Guavara" ("Epic literature requires an iconography. Zorro and Robin Hood ... lent the live Che their features."); argues that the Old Testament prophet Jonah was an artist at heart ("Nadine Gordimer, of whom Jonah had never heard, said that there could be no worse fate for a writer than not being execrated in a corrupt society. Jonah did not wish to suffer that annihilating fate."); and angrily dismisses Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho as merely a "novel of pornographic horror." In "Borges in Love" Manguel paints a poignant portrait of the unhappy love life of his literary mentor, Jorges Luis Borges, drawing from his experience of having read books aloud to the blind storyteller as a teenager while growing up in Buenos Aires. The experience adds resonance to a claim Manguel makes in yet another essay: "Reading helps us maintain coherence in the chaos, not to eliminate it; not to enclose experience within verbal structures but to allow it to progress on its own vertiginous way; not to trust the glittering surface of words, but to burrow into the darkness." --Russell Prather --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A superb collection-- A fantastic voyage through the world of books-- permeated by [Manguel's] playful wit and love of paradox." - Germaine Greer
"Splendid [and] eloquently expressed--Manguel's writing at its strongest and most original." - TLS
"In a modern world that assails all our senses simultaneously, Manguel's writing stands as a cool pool of reflection-- The big themes haunting our century are re-viewed through a literary lens--never academic--rich in anecdotes." - The Independent