Monday, May 03, 2010

Alberto Manguel: A Reader on Reading

A Reader on Reading
Ian Sansom reviews Alberto Manguel's A Reader on Reading.
It is very rare indeed for someone to have devoted their lifetime to making these complex and delightful reconstructions, to sharing and reporting on their experiences as a reader; much rarer, say, than the many who devote themselves simply to criticism, to judgment or to commentary. It's so rare, in fact, that it's difficult to know what to call it. Manguel might best be described not so much as a critic but rather as a devotee of reading; one thinks of Susan Sontag, or of Clive James – observers, admirers, enthusiasts. This enthusiasm leads to what one might perhaps describe as a sentimental strain in Manguel's writing, though it might also accurately be described as morality, the imaginative extension of oneself and one's sympathies to others. In his revealing essay on erotic literature, "The Gates of Paradise", he argues that in "reading or making love, we should be able to lose ourselves in the other, into whom – to borrow Saint John's image – we are transformed: reader into writer into reader, lover into lover into lover.
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