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Ruined by Reading

"Lynne Sharon Schwartz has caught the essential privacy of the reading act, how over a lifetime it shapes the soul into contrarian particularity. No true reader will be able to resist these fond relections."
--Sven Birkerts

"Here's the story, by a fine novelist, of her happy addiction to books.... Ruined by Reading a gifted, ferociously intelligent novelist.... In her essay, which is a love letter to books she read and reads and to the act of reading itself, Schwartz obeys the law of gravity but also manages to float free of the Earth at times, and almost to fly. For while she speaks here of intellectual obligations and serious encounters, she also writes about fun -- about what has set her free."
--Frederick Busch, Los Angeles Times


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Starting with her introduction to reading at three and a half, Lynne Sharon Schwartz wanders through her "life in books," from her early enchantment with Poe's "Annabel Lee," to Heidi, to A Little Princess, to her distraction by the 1986 New York Mets, to ther reluctance to see movies made of favorite books. This original memoir, told with both irony and tenderness, charts the shaping of a life and an identity.

"If we make books happen," Schwartz writes, "they make us happen as well. Reading teaches receptivity, Keats's negative capability. It teaches us to receive, in stillness and attentiveness, a voice possessed temporarily, on loan.... So much of a child's life is lived for others. We learn what they want us to learn, and show our learning for their gratification. All the reading I did as a child, behind closed doors, sitting on the bed while the darkness fell around me, was an act of reclamation. This and only this I did for myself. This was the way to make my life my own."


* * * *

"I was at home in this book as if I was, in fact, at home in one of our old big chairs, reading myself into life."
--Grace Paley