Archive for the ‘Perrin, Noel’ Category

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!

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