Far-flung notes on reading

  • Traditionally, Montreal’s Salon du livre has been all about “the approximately 4,000 French-language books published in Quebec each year.” But this year “non-francophone Europeans and anglophone Canadians are going to be sharing the limelight with French-language authors.”
  • James Buchan contends that “Voltaire is not much read nowadays, even in France, and then only for his short prose tales such as Candide. Instead, he embodies in his career and makes intelligible in his conversation and letters the great revolutions of the 18th century in religion, civil rights, finance, domesticity and sex.”
  • Last week the University of South Florida honored the only Spanish-language bookstore in Tampa, Florida. Tampa Libros supplies the area’s Latino community with translations of Shakespeare and the works of Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende and Elena Poniatowska in their original Spanish.
  • When her ex- took her books in a nasty split, a Globe and Mail writer threw a party, promising to ply her friends with drinks in exchange for book donations. The contributions, she said, “could be old, new, paper, hardback, amusing or classic. I’m no library snob, I just wanted a wall of words to fondle.”
  • In a collection of John Ashbery’s prose, the poet recalls running into Frank O’Hara “carrying a stack of books by various writers I had never heard of, including Samuel Beckett, Jean Rhys and Flann O’Brien, who were in fact all but unknown in 1949.” David Heard believes this “stack of books is important, that Ashbery and O’Hara became the poets they did “largely because they read voraciously.”
  • John Steinbeck’s hometown, Salinas, CA, has saved its libraries by adopting a sales tax increase. (Thanks, Jeff.)
  • Novelist Don Silver says Edgar Allan Poe “was the first writer to take me seriously as a reader.”


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