"The collection makes a strong case for the centrality of reading to human life . . . to argue for literature’s importance in an increasingly post-literate age."—Jeff Porter, associate professor of English, University of Iowa
"This wide-ranging collection of essays refreshes one's faith in highly personal criticism and in the joy of reading. They are a reaffirmation that literature is not meant to be a self-enclosed domain, and that there is no unbridgeable gap between life and art. There is humor in these pages, and passion—as well as the authentic sound of strong personal voices."—Victor Brombert, Professor of Comparative Literature and Romance Languages emeritus at Princeton University and author of the wartime memoir Trains of Thought
During the past thirty years, the editors of the Hudson Review have observed a trend among some of the best literary essayists and reviewers to situate their criticism in a deeply personal manner as opposed to the theoretical, technocratic work being produced in many literary and academic publications. Over time, the Hudson Review became a home for this kind of accessible, memoirist writing. Literary Awakenings collects eighteen essays published over the last three decades that celebrate the writer’s relationship with literature, one that is deeply shaped by experience and remembrance.
The essays gathered here recall disparate awakenings to the influence of literature and discoveries of the many ways in which it enriches nearly every aspect of our lives. Antonio Muñoz Molina describes his education as a writer and a citizen as a form of protest against Franco’s totalitarian regime in Spain. Drawing upon Huckleberry Finn, Wendell Berry meditates on the impulse to escape that literature often invokes, and Judith Pascoe’s tribute to Clarissa confesses to the appeal of reading select literature that initiates one into an exclusive coterie of people. What unites these diverse contributions is the joy of appreciation, the pleasures of engaging with literature.
Ronald Koury has been managing editor of the Hudson Review since 1985.