The Terry Teachout Reader

So let’s say your friend writes a book. Your friend writes a book, or maybe a bunch of his prior work, some of which you’ve read, is collected into one volume. You see a preview of the design, down to the typeface. It all looks outstanding. But when you order the book and await its arrival you’re a little nervous because, let’s face it, there’s always the possibility it won’t be as good as you hope.

The Terry Teachout Reader is everything I’d hoped it would be. Actually, that’s not true. It exceeds my expectations in every respect.

I don’t agree with all of Terry’s opinions, but I always learn from them. And I admire his eloquence and humor, not to mention the spirit and intelligence undergirding his criticism. If I were less exhausted and a better friend, I would try to describe the book without relying on abstract superlatives. Alas, I am ready to fall face-first onto the keyboard.

So I’ll just let a sample speak for itself. This is the first paragraph of an essay entitled “Norman Mailer: Forgotten but Not Gone”:

Why is Norman Mailer still famous? He hasn’t written a good book since The Executioner’s Song. Except for The Naked and the Dead, none of his novels continues to be read, and his magazine journalism long ago curdled into self-parody. I’ve never met anyone under the age of forty who took him seriously. Yet Random House, which so far as I know is not a charitable institution, is celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday by bringing out a 1,200-page anthology of his writing, chosen by the master himself. That’s a pretty fancy birthday present, especially given the fact that it will surely wind up on the remainder tables by year’s end.

Watch for Terry’s upcoming appearance on Studio 360.


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