A Little Help, Please?: Literary Edition

Colleague SK just pointed me to “Ask The Paris Review,” a weekly column in, you guessed it, The Paris Review (well, in its blog), that helps people find the most perfect books for any occasion–from art books about Manhattan to “good, weird” literature to win over 13-year-old non-readers.

The column is penned by Lorin Stein, who took over as editor of The Paris Review this spring.

Some immediate reactions:

  • I like!  Fun to read, interesting recommendations.  And (perhaps most importantly) even though it’s basically a book recommender, this column maintains the desirable mix of angst, desperation, and hilarity in its letters that–come on, now–are really the reason we read advice columns at all.
  • It’s an interesting medium through which to promote new books, and also revive interest in old books, based on their suitability for a certain need
  • I enjoy the idea of recommending literature, rather than, um, self-help books, as a way to help people think through/work through their problems.  You don’t always need a pop guru telling you what to do, you just need to get your head in the right place.
  • One of the few-ish advice columns written by a man.  The other most famous ones have got to be Randy Cohen (The Ethicist), and Dan Savage (Savage Love).  There are others, but few are high profile, and most are specialized, as this one is.  Nice to have another voice, though.
  • This reminds me that I got a book like this as a gift one time.  “The girls’ guide to the best book for every situation,” or some such thing–it was pink and surely heavily emphasized Jane Austen.  I liked the concept, but didn’t really use it in practice.  It’s somewhere in my parents’ house now. I prefer this column for its broader audience, as well as its more dynamic nature.  My book will never be able to recommend a book published after it was–that’s too bad.

At first glance, anyway, “Ask The Paris Review” is entertaining, helpful, and a refreshing change of pace–I’m adding it to my links.


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