The Joys and Pains of Books: Dahl to Derrida
Sale, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)
Outside of a Dog: a Bibliomemoir By Rick Gekoski CONSTABLE Pounds 14.99 (278pp) Pounds 13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
This wonderfully unhelpful title is presumably intended to have the book displayed on the popular "Your Pet" shelves in bookshops, which are guaranteed rather more customer traffic than the ones labelled "Quirky and Intriguing Literary Criticism". It derives from the Groucho Marx quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
What this book lacks in canine chit-chat it makes up for in provocative memories of volumes which Rick Gekoski has read - or in some cases hasn't actually read, but somehow remembers pretty well. Outside of a Dog is a "bibliomemoir" by a former Warwick University lecturer turned rare book dealer and broadcaster (most recently in his Lost, Stolen or Shredded Radio 4 series) - but it is more accessible than that sounds.
Although a later chapter includes a totally incomprehensible paragraph from the post-structuralist and leading linguistic mangler, Jacques Derrida, the first chapter begins with a close textual analysis of Horton Hatches an Egg, Dr Seuss's celebration of the amazing "elephant bird". Gekoski admits to hiding in the loo to finish another masterpiece for kids, Roald Dahl's Matilda - as an adult. He found Descartes "fun", while Yeats was "the most irritating poet since Blake". …