Jonathan Yardley’s Second Readings added to Sources

January 10th, 2010

Source: Second Readings, from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/19/LI2005041903474.html

In early 2003, Jonathan Yardley, dean of the Washington Post’s book critics began what was modestly called, “An occasional series in which The Post’s book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.”
Jonathan Yardley
Ever month or so, Yardley would set aside his stack of review copies of new books to take up one that had been in or out of print for a decade or more–”books I remember with affection and admiration but have not read in many years, books I would like to encourage others to discover.”

His first piece dealt with John P. Marquand’s H.M. Pulham, Esq., also featured on this site about a year ago. His choice of Marquand, as Yardley put it, was motivated not because, “His are not the best books I’ve ever read, but they are among the books I love most, and the neglect into which they have fallen is a literary outrage.”

When he concluded the series almost seven years later, with a fond revisit to The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor, he wrote,

With that, this series of Second Readings comes to an end. It began in February 2003 and has covered nearly 100 books. Probably it could go on a while longer, but it’s best to quit before you start repeating yourself. Let me say by way of wrapping things up that except for a couple of the books I’ve written, nothing in my career has given me so much pleasure as these reconsiderations, not least because they have elicited such warm, generous responses from you, my treasured readers. I hope that I’ve steered you to a few good books you might otherwise have missed, and that those books gave you as much pleasure as reading and writing about them gave me.

Not all of the books Yardley covered can be considered neglected–certainly not such fixtures of the literary canon as Pride and Prejudice or The Catcher in the Rye. But he did often reach beyond the limits of the well-known and well-remembered to bring back to light titles such as Edwin O’Connor’s novel of a veteran vaudevillean,I Was Dancing (“I’d be hard-pressed to say that any book discussed therein is more undeservedly neglected than this one”), and The Second Happiest Day by John Phillips (pen name of Marquand’s son John Phillips Marquand, Jr.). He even took time to consider a book such as Philip Wylie’s rather dated critique of American society of the mid-20th century, Generation of Vipers to demonstrate that sometimes the test of time is a fair judgment of a book’s merit.

I’ve added the full list of books Yardley reviewed as a new Source list on the left.

One Response to “Jonathan Yardley’s Second Readings added to Sources”

  1. Eugenia Bedard Says:

    I LIVE OUT OF THE COUNTRY A LARGE PART OF EACH YEAR AND READ THE WASHINGTON POST ON LINE. THE “BOOKS” COLUMN IN “ARTS AND LIVING” WAS ALWAYS WHERE I FIRST TURNED, “IN THE OLDEN DAYS.” NOW IT IS NOT SO EASY, BUT I CAN STILL GET THERE. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE WASHINGTON POST HAS YIELDED TO A TOO PREVALENT TENDENCY IN MANY PLACES TO “DUMB DOWN,” PRESUMING THAT SUCH ACTION WILL BE MORE LIKELY TO RETAIN OR ATTRACT READERS. WHERE IS THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEADERSHIP AMONG THE MEDIA TO MAINTAIN HIGH STANDARDS OF INFORMATION FOR THEIR READERS AND TO SUPPORT THAT APPARENT MINORITY IN THE GROUP WHO PRESUME OURSELVES TO BE IN A HIGHER LEVEL OF ERUDITION, IF THAT MIGHT BE PERMITTED?

    MY CONGRATULATIONS TO JONATHAN YARDLEY, MICHAEL DIRDA ET AL FOR THEIR BRILLIANT, ENTERTAINING WRITING. IT IS A PLEASURE TO READ THEIR WORK. .

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