Here the reader will discover a definition of literature that is as broad as it is broad-minded. In addition to novels and stories, Lesser explores plays, poems, and essays along with mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs. As she examines these works from such perspectives as "Character and Plot," "Novelty," "Grandeur and Intimacy," and "Authority," Why I Read sparks an overwhelming desire to put aside quotidian tasks in favor of reading. Lesser's passion for this pursuit resonates on every page, whether she is discussing the book as a physical object or a particular work's influence. "Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different," she writes. "It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else's past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times."
A book in the spirit of E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel and Elizabeth Hardwick's A View of My Own, Why I Read is iconoclastic, conversational, and full of insight. It will delight those who are already avid readers as well as neophytes in search of sheer literary fun.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Wendy Lesser has constructed a fascinating narrative in which the fifteen quartets, considered one at a time in chronological order, lead the reader through the personal, political, and professional events that shaped Shostakovich's singular, emblematic twentieth-century life. Weaving together interviews with the composer's friends, family, and colleagues, as well as conversations with present-day musicians who have played the quartets, Lesser sheds new light on the man and the musician. One of the very few books about Shostakovich that is aimed at a general rather than an academic audience, "Music for Silenced Voices" is a pleasure to read; at the same time, it is rigorously faithful to the known facts in this notoriously complicated life. It will fill readers with the desire to hear the quartets, which are among the most compelling and emotionally powerful monuments of the past century's music.
Released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of The Threepenny Review in January 2015, Table Talk, edited by Wendy Lesser, Mimi Chubb and Jennifer Zahrt, includes essays by Christopher Ricks, who unfolds a dazzling literary history of the phrase “Table Talk”; Leonard Michaels on why the waltz should be viewed as an aggressive, imperialist dance; and Claire Messud on the art of digression in fiction and conversation. Sigrid Nunez engages with the contemporary vogue for memoir and autobiography, while Luc Sante draws conclusions about postmodern art from a stray bit of graffiti glimpsed on a New York street. Other contributions include Alexander Nehamas on the NEA controversy that roiled the culture wars of the 1990s and Paula Fox’s tips for interacting with difficult children.
Ninety-nine pieces become a garden of literary delights, as Table Talk takes an irreverent walk on the wild side of philosophical and cultural speculation that will resonate with readers of any age.
Whether her subject is Mark Morris's choreography, the delights of e-mail, the odd assortment of words that were born the same year she was, or the moral implications of giving to beggars (pondered by way of Charles Dickens and Henry James), Lesser's acute wisdom and elegant prose render a beguiling portrait of a remarkable mind at work.
From the Trade Paperback edition.