A Reader’s Delight by Noel Perrin ~ 1988. This edition: University Press of New England, 1988. Softcover. ISBN: 0-87451-432-0. 208 pages.
My rating: 10/10
I hold the late Noel Perrin (1927-2004) in very high regard ever since reading several of his thoughtful essay collections (First Person Rural, Second Person Rural) some years ago.
A Reader’s Delight is a high-spirited, and – dare I say – playful collection of writings about literature and the pleasures of reading. Perrin turns his attention to under-appreciated literary gems, or, as he terms them, “possible classics”. His criteria: books published more than (roughly) fifteen years earlier (that is, prior to 1973), and books which no more than two or three of his colleagues had read. (Perrin was a highly respected Professor of English at Dartmouth University, as well as a book reviewer and columnist with the Washington Post.)
Perrin enthusiastically promotes forty books (actually thirty-eight books and two poems), which he thought deserved greater circulation. His essays are passionate, most often humorous, and exceptionally convincing. A true joy to read all on their own, with promise of future reading pleasure if one can track these titles down. Some will definitely entail a “quest”, while others are still in general circulation and relatively easily found.
I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this essay collection. I had already read and appreciated a few of the titles on the list but most were unknown to me. I will be seeking many of these out, or at least keeping them in mind while used-book searching in the future.
Here are the books Perrin recommends, with his essay titles in quotation marks:
- Indian Summer by William Dean Howells, 1886. “A Nearly Perfect Comedy.”
- The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark, 1934. “To Awaken Quite Alone.”
- Kai Lung’s Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah, 1922. “A Thousand and One Chinese Nights.”
- The Bottom of the Harbour by Joseph Mitchell, 1960. “A Kind of Writing for Which No Name Exists.”
- The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion, 1919. “A Book That Could Cure Suicide.”
- Watch the North Wind Rise by Robert Graves, 1949. “A Future Ruled by Magic.”
- Fables in Slang by George Ade, 1899. “The Fables of George Ade.”
- On Love by Stendhal, 1822. “Falling in Love with Stendhal.”
- Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, 1953. “Moving in Eccentric Circles.”
- Poem: “The Exequy” by Henry King, 1624. “Lament For a Young Wife.”
- Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton, 1898. “Thinking Rabbits and Talking Crows.”
- All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams, 1944. “Taking Ghosts Seriously.”
- Roman Wall by Bryher, 1954. “The Decline and Fall of Switzerland.”
- Democracy by Henry Adams, 1880. “Gulliver Goes to Washington.”
- The Blessing of Pan byLord Dunsany, 1928. “Lords and Pagans.”
- Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens, 1948. “The Best American Novel about World War II.”
- The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden, 1860. “After Jane Austen, Who?”
- The Diary of George Templeton Strong edited by Allan Nevins and Milton Thomas, 1952. “America’s Greatest Diarist.”
- The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Henriette Roosenburg, 1957. “The Night-and-Fog People.”
- The Silver Stallion by James Branch Cabell, 1926. “Irreverence in the Year 1239.“
- The Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Varé, 1935. “A Tale of Many Virtues.”
- Many Cargoes by W.W. Jacobs, 1896. “Sailing to London.”
- Riding the Rails by Michael Mathers, 1973. “Men in Boxcars.”
- The Best of Friends: Further Letters to Sydney Carlyle Cockerell edited by Viola Meynell, 1956. “A Man of Many Letters.”
- A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, 1960. “Love, Longing and Death.”
- Poem: “Church Going” by Phillip Larkin, 1955. “Phillip Larkin’s Greatest Poem.”
- The Three Royal Monkeys by Walter de la Mare, 1910. “Quest of the Mulla-Mulgars.”
- When the Snow Comes, They Will Take You Away by Eric Newby, 1971. “Prisoner in Wartime Italy.”
- Bridgeport Bus by Maureen Howard, 1965. “Ugly Ducklings and Unhappy Swans.”
- Essays in Idleness by Kenko, 1332. “In Medieval Japan.”
- The Green Child by Herbert Read, 1935. “A Novel About Nirvana.”
- A Casual Commentary by Rose Macaulay, 1925. “In an Offhand Manner.”
- The Adventures of Jonathan Corncob, Loyal American Refugee by Anonymous, 1787; edited by Noel Perrin, 1979. “Two Hundred One Years Old and Still Impudent: The First Novel about the American Revolution.”
- Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill, 1962. “Over Forty and Just Beginning: An Englishwoman’s Brilliantly Recorded Life.”
- Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright, 1942. “The Best of all Imaginary Islands.”
- They Asked for a Paper by C.S. Lewis, 1962. “A C.S. Lewis Miscellany.”
- Born to Race by Blanche C. Perrin, 1959. “A Girl, a Horse – and for Once a Good Book.”
- A Genius in the Family by Hiram P. Maxim, 1936. “A Genius Grows in Brooklyn.”
- My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle by Marcel Pagnol, 1960. “Huck Finn’s French Counterpart.”
- Far Rainbow by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, 1964. “Tanya Must Die.”
And there you have it.
Happy hunting, and happy reading!