Thursday, February 11, 2010


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This week's Booking Through Thursday question asks "How can you encourage a non-reading child to read?" There is a lot more to the question that is very interesting if you are facing this problem in your own home. For my short answer, that is enough.

I don't have kids, so do not have to actually contemplate such a horrible dilemma. A child who doesn't want to read? The idea that that child will turn into a non-reading adult? I shudder.

I think that I always liked to read. I can't remember any pre-reading years, so I cannot even imagine not having a book with me.

But just to make sure, my parents instituted a simple program of child bribery. Starting in first grade, they paid me a dime for every book I read. I'd give them a list at the end of the day, tell them about my favorite bits, and they would pay up.

After a while, tired up paying close to a dollar every day, they upped the stakes. They paid me a quarter for every "classic" I read. This lead me to read many books that are childhood classics -- Heidi, Treasure Island, etc. -- but that were way above my comprehension level.  I powered through them anyway, which was probably good training for college because I was never intimidated by any book I faced. Although I like to think my comprehension has improved.

Review of the Day: The Flâneur

A flâneur is a loiterer, or a stroller, or, as French poet Charles Baudelaire described him, “a person who walks the city in order to experience it.” Edmund White describes Paris through the eyes of such a person in The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris.

White’s book is loosely organized into chapters discussing various types of people living in Paris: French writers, American writers, blacks, Jews, artists, gays, and royalists. He uses these as starting points for rambling discussions through Paris history, politics, and the lives of famous Parisians, with detours to fashion, sex, architecture, and the city’s assorted nooks and crannies.

Writers loom large in White’s Paris. While he includes artists, jazz musicians, politicians, and aristocrats, White’s heart lies in a literary Paris. He mentions dozens of poets, novelists, critics, and philosophers, and provides detailed portraits of some of Paris’s more celebrated scribes, including Colette and Baudelaire.

The loose structure of book sometimes jumbles the information provided. It can take a while to figure out where White is heading, and the amount of information White packs in can be staggering. But the book may be all the more enticing because it lacks a rigid itinerary and provides such an abundance of particulars. As White explains:

[T]he flâneur is in search of experience, not knowledge. Most experience ends up interpreted as – and replaced by – knowledge, but for the flâneur the experience remains somehow pure, useless, raw.

This is one of the 12 books I am reading for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge. It is also on my French Connection list.

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

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