Review of Alberto Manguel's Reading Pictures
This book is in a line of works of eccentric scholarship: Pliny the Elder's Natural History (the founding work of the genre), Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici, Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature. In this kind of work, wide and eclectic reading is put at the service of a large thesis, one which is not so rigorous as to exclude the entertaining anecdote or the curious fact. (Manguel pays homage to his master Pliny in his chapter 'The Image as Witness'.) The book is thus midway between a treatise and a book of quotations. It is too personal, too idiosyncratic, to be either the one or the other.
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Argentinian Alberto Manguel is the author of several award-winning books, including A Dictionary of Imaginary Places and A History of Reading. He was born in Buenos Aires, became a Canadian citizen in 1982, and now lives in France, where he was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. His most recent books are Stevenson Under the Palm Trees and A Reading Diary.
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