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An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland

– tekijä: Michael Dirda

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Growing up in a bluecollar, Midwestern household of the 50s and 60s, Dirda appalled his father with his insatiable thirst for reading. His humorous remembrances of the works he loved will spark the interest of anyone who savors a good story.

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
This is the story of how books shaped a life and about life in America in the middle of the 20th century. Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize winning book critic of the Washington Post, tells the story of his life up till his college years at Oberlin College. In some ways the world he writes about is now past, technology and globalization have seen to that. Yet, there is, in this well written memoir, a road map, a kernel of an idea. That idea is this: books and a life of reading can serve as launching pad to another life if we so desire. Dirda, as some reviewers on this website found out, is very honest about his growing years. An honest writer is like that and a well written memoir should not flinch from that aim. This is a book any book lover can take to heart.
( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
Michael Dirda is a cousin of mine, and I remember going to my local Borders to hear him speak about this book (and get a signed copy!) when it first came out. It was a treat to finally get around to reading the book and experience his perception of some of my relatives. Marlene and "Cookie" are my aunt and uncle and their sister is my grandmother, the third Kucirek cousin who is, unfortunately, not mentioned! I grew up in Lorain in the 90s, and it's amazing to me that not much has really changed. I can pinpoint nearly all the locations he discusses, and can vouch for myself that Yala's Pizza really is the best!! I consider myself more of a casual reader, so some of the ending chapters where he gives us more of his musings on authors and their works was a little dull for me. Overall, though, the book is a wonderful telling of life in Lorain. ( )
  cknick | Dec 14, 2016 |
Let's just say I relate. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
The author is a book reviewer for the Washington Post; this is the story of his life up until graduation from university.
"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.
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.
See the early influences on a literary book reviewer
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. ( )
  polywogg | Mar 5, 2016 |
Very enjoyable though not very profound story of Dirda's life through college, all revolving around his discovery of reading, love of books, and the people he met and places he went as a consequence. It includes an interesting story of his relationship with his father - highlighted by a deeply moving realization Dirda has while working at a summer job in the steel tube plant his father has worked in since returning from WW 2, and an extended narrative of Dirda's discovery of girls. The early parts of the story are the best, before he even gets to college, though his story of those years will no doubt do wonders for Oberlin College's recruiting efforts, at least among intelligent parents looking for a place to send their children. Dirda's tastes are broad, and his reading embraces H.P. Lovecraft as easily as French novels read in the original language or complex works of criticism. Nevertheless, there is a sense of loss that runs throughout this book. Dirda, like most very intelligent people, can't help but think of the things that might have been--all the possibilities that never came to pass and all the roads not taken. ( )
  datrappert | Jun 29, 2010 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 8) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Growing up in a bluecollar, Midwestern household of the 50s and 60s, Dirda appalled his father with his insatiable thirst for reading. His humorous remembrances of the works he loved will spark the interest of anyone who savors a good story.

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