Second Reading began life as a column in the Washington Post reconsidering notable and neglected books from the past. Sixty of these reviews have been gathered in this compendium, which boasts a distractingly eclectic contents page. Interspersed between reviews of literary standards by Fitzgerald, Márquez and Hemingway we find out-of-print curiosities such as a biography of WC Fields by Robert Lewis Taylor.
Jonathan Yardley’s passion for championing forgotten books grates at times and he has a touch of the revisionist – he calls Catcher in the Rye a “maladroit, mawkish novel”. However, his book is saved from becoming “The Literary Canon According to Jonathan Yardley” by its enthusiasm.
Read Yardley’s excellent and touching essays on Louis Armstrong’s autobiography, The Great Gatsby or The Reivers by William Faulkner and any nagging fears about pretentiousness are crowded out by the wit, studiousness and wisdom of his arguments.
Second Reading: Notable and Neglected Books Revisited, by Jonathan Yardley, Europa Editions, RRP$16, 256 pages