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Wednesday, 25 October 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

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Book By Book

Michael Dirda, a reviewer for The Washington Post Book World and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, gives readers a treat in this small volume of meditations on life and literature.

In chapters like “The Pleasures of Learning,” “Work and Leisure,” “The Books of Love,” and “Living in the World,” Dirda shows us the connections between books and the important events in our lives. His book is alive with quotations that entertain and instruct the reader. (Who would have guessed, for instance, that Napoleon, never an advocate of retreat, once quipped: “The only victor over love is flight”?) Dirda introduces us to several hundred authors. Even more, he teaches us how great literature can act as a guide and comfort in many of life’s difficulties. Here is a perfect holiday gift for the book lover in your life.

 

Internet radio

As a kid growing up in Boonville, N.C., I had a friend whose mother owned an enormous radio that could pick up a German radio station (probably out of New York, but we liked to think we were listening to Germany). It’s delightful to experience that same thrill all the time now with the Internet. My own personal favorite station so far is Radi — Classique out of Paris (I’m listening to it as I write) both because of the selection of classical music and because the commentary is, of course, in French. Since becoming an Internet listener, I’ve also found a real classic country station, several interesting pop stations in London, and a station that once a week delivers its news in Latin, a subject I teach to high school students.

 

“Whatever Happened to Kerouac?”

This DVD purports to investigate the demise of Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road and father of the Beat Generation. Though the investigators try to point to Kerouac’s fame and notoriety as the cause of his early death, this documentary is more important for what it reveals of Kerouac’s friends. Several of them, despite their inflated opinions of themselves in this movie, couldn’t hold a candle to Kerouac in terms of talent or personality. As the interviews proceed, we begin to see — again, I don’t think this is what the directors had in mind — that Kerouac’s friends, many of whom moved in philosophical and religious directions quite foreign to those embraced by Kerouac, may have helped put him into an early grave. Kerouac’s real killer, however, was alcohol. He died from acute alcoholism on Oct. 21, 1969. He was 47 years old.

— By Jeff Minick

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