Somewhere along the way, and way back when, Walt Whitman wrote something like, “Who holds this book holds a man.” If memory serves, it was in Leaves of Grass.
Googling the phrase shows me to be half-correct. Accurate as to the poem, but inaccurate as to the quote. What Whitman sez is, “This is no book,/Who touches this, touches a man.”
Once again, Memory serves up Correspondences.
And Google keeps me honest, one more time.
After reading One for the Books, by Joe Queenan, that quote came to mind in its slightly mangled form as descriptive of holding up, and reading, this author.
Queenan is easily more angry than I am, and that is not an easy thing to achieve. If you have read his response to his alcoholic father’s 12-Step apology for any harm he might have done to his son, which if memory serves ran in Time magazine’s endpaper essay spot several years ago, (and seems to appear in one of his memoires, Closing Time), you know that this guy is not serene – though he may be clean.
I remember being grateful that Queenan had the guts to stick his father’s apology sideways where the sun don’t shine. Many of us need that kind of permission in dealing with toxic parents. I also reflected on my sense of what goes around comes around. Still, I admired Queenan’s rage and appreciated its full expression.
Queenan’s latest book give you two things –
- A full sense if who this writer is.
- A selection of finely written pieces from a lover of books, particularly palpable books in print on paper (though you can, oddly enough, buy the book for your Kindle).
As a fairly typical liberal, I believe that reading writers like Queenan can be a timely correction of the excesses my cohort is heir to and prone, to, too. I don’t listen when the devil quotes scripture, but I do pay attention when a writer who is his own free thinker has something to say that is worth reading.
I even paid full price for the privilege. In hardcover. My copy will sit beside my other books on books.
One for the Books has only fresh material, which I am grateful for. If the copyright page had cited previous publication of parts of the whole, I would have given the book a miss. If I want warmed-over stuff, my memory will suffice for that.
Good job, Joe.
- Queenan’s many books are available on Amazon.