Happy Birthday

DZEFg20VMAEpQbmI grew up in the 1950s, in San Diego, went to a Los Angeles university in the 1960s, and am proud to admit that my most memorable professor was Jack Hirshman. Add Hirshman to an early (and frequent) exposure to James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and S. I. Hayakawa, and it isn’t too much of a stretch to learn that my first young-adult visit to a famous landmark in San Francisco was not Carol Doda, but rather the City Lights Bookstore.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a personal local favorite. Back when I could only afford to nurse a single cup of coffee until the wee hours (ten cents a cup), I actually owned at least two volumes of Ferlinghetti’s poetry. Jack Hirshman was honored as Poet Laureaate of San Francisco and before that Lawrence Ferlighetti held the honor.

Does your town or city have a Port Laureate?

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Literary Sundae: Fruit, Nuts, a Little Whipped Topping

candied-coconut-sundaejpg-01b9a12712b7c5acIt’s a cold, rainy day here and I find myself reviewing some of my reading from the last twenty some-odd years. I notice that several of my most well-thought-of titles were read more than once, generally because of an online reading group selection or possibly a new translation or even reading in the original as well as in translation. I suppose it’s possible I reread a book or two just for the fun of it but that would be unusual since I tend to discard or trade-away anything I’ve already read.

I thought it would be interesting to make a list of the top four titles I read for each year. I won’t vouch for the ranking or even whether a book would interest me today, but generally I consider most of these books to be highly recommended.

What do you think? The full list of twenty titles per year is at Best-By-Year.

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Focus

download.jpgI have long been aware that one’s ability to read books at a steady pace and to get ‘er done is not dependent on the speed of your eye movement or the amount of text you can take in at one time but rather is is directly related to how well you can focus your concentration. Naturally your comprehension and memory are also enhances by staying focused.

I was a senior in High School when I began to experiment with various methods of improving my reading speed. They even had a reading lab where you could pace your reading by having a mechanical shutter close-off sentences at controllable speeds. Everyone cheated, of course, the winner being the person attesting to the fastest reading speed. If I recall, there was a rumor that someone had reached supersonic speeds … but that was just for a paragraph or two that the machine presented in a limited fashion.

I remember trying to calculate the speed at which the pages would have to be turned in order to make such astronomical speeds possible.

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Once Again …

images-1.jpg… not all of the February reading suggestions I had intended were actually posted on this weblog. Quelle dommage! Just so no one misses out on my musings during the month of February, I’ll publish the complete list (I do this anyway, even if I’m always punctual posting my suggestions).

You might not have noticed but I have been slipping several newer texts into my reading list, texts that often were included in recent suggestion lists. I suspect I’ll need a few more months reading books that haven’t hit the remainders stack yet, but so far I’m not enthused by the state of today’s new publications.

I will suggest, however, that a lot of the literature coming out of Africa, the Middle East, and South America, is a better route to good reading than sticking to American or British books. I suppose Joseph Roux put it in perspective: “Literature was formerly an art and finance a trade; today it is the reverse.” This, of course, pertains to much of what we consider the Western World. The Capitalism monster even devours literature.

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