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The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on…
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The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading (edició 2000)

de Geoffrey O'Brien (Autor)

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1813116,748 (3.14)6
An expansive, learned, and utterly charming reverie on what it means to be lost in a book
Títol:The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading
Autors:Geoffrey O'Brien (Autor)
Informació:Counterpoint Press (2000), Edition: First Edition, 224 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Lit Crit, Book inventory
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading de Geoffrey O'Brien

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My first draft of this review opened with the bald statement that "This is the worst book I have ever read!" But upon reflection it was clear that a softer approach would be more effective in conveying the actual nature of the work – and might have the added benefit of encouraging you to read on. After all, who am I to cast such a final judgment? While it may be the worst book I ever actually finished, it by no means is the worst book ever written. For example, I doubt that I am the only person for whom it is impossible to get beyond page two of anything by Danielle Steel.

But I digress. The Browser's Ecstasy burst into my field of view while waiting in line at the local Barnes & Noble where it was displayed prominently on a rack filled with a plethora of items – some only tangentially related to books and reading – but assuredly designed for impulse buying. The title grabbed my imagination. Since the cover photo of a nude female was not nearly so seductive as it would have been were I a man, it still allowed for the possibility of imagining myself into that alluring pose in younger days. The whole notion of a meditation on reading while lying naked on a chaise longue conjured up other images inspired by books about reading. Of course, nothing could ever top the opening passages of Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. Now there is a truly imaginative meditation on reading. Or perhaps something Jean Rhys wrote about diving into a juicy thick tome:

" . . . and you read one page of it or even one phrase of it, and then you gobble up all the rest and go about in a dream for weeks afterwards . . . . What is not there you put in afterwards, for it is alive, this book, and it grows in your head. "

"What is not there, you put in afterwards." Yes, that is the secret of a compelling book, like an old radio drama, one of those artifacts of the last century where you were enthralled and delighted and stymied only by the limits of your own imagination to fill in the pictures that were not there.

Perhaps that suggests what is wrong with The Browser's Ecstasy. The author is a compulsive mind dumper. He cannot stop himself from uttering everything that comes to mind. He cannot leave anything to the reader’s imagination. One becomes thoroughly disoriented in the stream of his consciousness, and one is not entertained because after a while one is looking for a point to the endless digressions and descriptions of minutiae. Where is this all leading? But even more -- where is the enjoyment? There is no subtlety, no irony, no wry wit, no wonder, no excitement, no thrill, secret or otherwise, no joy, no sorrow, no consolation. Just an endless stream of words, meant to dazzle the reader with the author's verbal facility, his linguistic pyrotechnics -- or is it merely a reflection of his clever use of a thesaurus?

Actually, The Browser's Ecstasy puts me in mind of a time when I was visiting my mother who likes to do fill-in puzzles while she watches TV. I happened to glance through her book of fill-ins and was surprised to see that each puzzle had a theme. All the words in a given puzzle were names of geographical features, or exotic animals, cities, famous people, trees, or some such. I started to do a puzzle, and it had the most amazing effect. As I filled in each name, it conjured up images in my mind of all the associations I had with that word. This particular puzzle featured great cities of the world – Rome, Casablanca, Atlanta, Auckland, Rio, Nairobi, Paris, Istanbul, Cairo. By the time the puzzle was completed, I had circumnavigated the globe, I had been reminded of great movies, coffee table books brimming with stunning photographs, snippets of conversations, great vacations. It amounted in its way to a meditation that allowed the imagination to soar to all corners of the globe. It wasn't exactly a literary experience, yet by its ungrammatical string of nouns it encouraged a satisfying reverie.

The Browser's Ecstasy attempts to be a literary experience. In fact, it tries too hard. It positively gushes with erudite words. By employing every word that could be thought or said over inconsequential minutiae, it kills the spirit, it is deadening, contrary to the lowly fill-in puzzle, which has no literary aspirations at all. The book does not make the spirit soar – or the imagination. Its outlook is bleak, its erudition hollow. My conclusion in the end is that the famous and by now hackneyed epithet of Gertrude Stein in describing Oakland, "There is no there there," applies to this sad little book, so full of promise, and so empty of fulfillment.

The book culminates – in the antepenultimate chapter – in a 15-page run-on sentence which some might call a tour de force and, paradoxically, may be the most coherent part of the book, although it breaks all the rules of narrative such as "Show, don't tell." Ah, shades of Danielle Steel. There she is again.

Driving home from the bookstore, delighted with my impulse purchase, I daydreamed about what treasures would be found in its pages about the ecstasy of reading. Alas! My dreams were unfulfilled by this sad, dark, disappointing and depressing little book. My suggestion: Do your own meditation on its title. You are apt to find more fulfillment in that. ( )
4 vota Poquette | Apr 25, 2010 |
A very quick read not long at all but Mr. O'Brien sure knows how to pack in the most for his punch. The writing and words in this, I'm not really sure what to call it, book on reading, just flow on and on in a wonderful but daunting way. I found myself constantly having to reread the last few paragraphs to make sure I knew or at least hoped I knew what was happening or being said. Overall I am glad I read it but would be pretty tough to pick up for a reread anytime in the future. ( )
  LouCypher | Jan 15, 2010 |
I don’t get it, but the action of reading is integral to it nevertheless. I confess here, I didn’t finish the book. I read as far as I did (120 pages out of 153) because I loved feeling the love of reading that permeates every paragraph and sentence. But ultimately, it was just too foreign for my tastes.

(Full review at my blog) ( )
  KingRat | Jun 16, 2008 |
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