Attacks of Taste, ed. Evelyn Byrne and Otto Penzler 1971
This is a quirky little book that was conceived as “a project to increase and improve the reading habits of the girls in New York City’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning Junior High School. In the hope that their responses would help stimulate worthwhile reading. Several prominent writers were asked, “Which book or books were your favorites or influenced you most as a teenager and why?” Amazingly, many writers responded and this book comprises 68 of those responses from the unknown (at least to me!) Babette Deutsch and Vardis Fischer to the famous W.H. Auden, Ralph Ellison, Buckminster Fuller, Allen Ginsberg, and even Richard Nixon! I was struck by the number of best-selling novelists who are no longer read or perhaps even known to today’s readers, including Robert Anderson, James M. Cain, Erskine Caldwell, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, and those are only A through C. Time flies and fame is fleeting. The books mentioned are a fascinating potpourri of classics and idiosyncratic favorites. Those mentioned the most include the Bible, Shakespeare, Stevenson (especially my beloved Treasure Island), Kipling, Dumas, Twain, Dickens, Scott, Wells, and Carroll. John Updike cites the recently-read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie who was the only contributor both cited and citing. Christie listed Sherlock Holmes and Jane Eyre as favorite characters and Hugh Walpole, P.G. Wodehouse and H. G Wells as favorite authors. This should be a fun read for those who love to read about reading but it’s going to be hard to find this book. It’s not offered in the huge catalog of the Minuteman Library System in Eastern MA, and Amazon offers only one copy for $60. I found it on a backshelf at the Brattle Book Store in downtown Boston, so my guess is that it’s nearly impossible to find. Let me know if you want to borrow mine!