Ruxin, Paul T., Friday Lunch, Cleveland, OH: The Rowfant Club, no date (2002), slipcased, limited to 325 copies. 219 pages. $75
Caxtonian Paul Ruxin — speaker and writer, par excellence
One of the inexplicable mysteries of human life is passion; whatever its object, passion can scarcely be described, much less explained. Among the almost infinite possible objects of passion, moreover, multiple layers make some more difficult than others to be communicated, and among the most complex, and therefore the least susceptible to explication is bibliophilia” (Appetizer, p. 7)
The Rowfant Club is a group of book people who have Wednesday and Friday meetings, at which they eat and listen to a bookish speaker. (There are such things.) Paul Ruxin, a member of the Rowfant as well as The Caxton Club, has brought together in this volume a dozen of the talks he has given, most of them at Friday lunches. He gave his listeners then, and gives his readers now, a glimpse into his passions for certain books: poetry and prose, ancient and modern. From Juvenal toVladimir Nabokov, he makes a plea for each author as an object of literary passion. He has a special interest in the outsiders, the people whose literary work came out of a kind of separation from other people, but he also delves into literary friendships, and makes authors sound less like stuffed specimens on the library shelf than like people.
One reviewer in particular was won over by the very first essay, which suggests (if it doesn’t come right out and declare) that there is more to be learned about Emily Dickinson by reading a score of her poems than in all the books written about her. Other essays show the same tone: informed but not lofty, not merely telling us that a writer’s works are rewarding but, by quoting them in the context of the author’s life, showing us that they are rewarding. (If he did not quite convince the aforementioned reader about Wallace Stevens, well, some of us just have a lot of sales resistance when it comes to poetry; the flaw is in our character, not in his presentation.)
The book is as handsome outside as it is readable inside, and has been printed and bound in a way that makes it easy to handle and to read. A book that shows its quality both in binding and text is a rarity, and anyone with an interest in Robert Frost, Henry James, Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, Samuel Johnson, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, just to begin the list of contents, needs a copy of this in hand. It rewards rereading, too; perhaps another look at that chapter on Wallace Stevens will do the job.
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