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A Company of Readers

Uncollected Writings of W. H. Auden, Jacques Barzun, and Lionel Trilling from the Reader's Subscription and Mid-Century Book Clubs


Arthur Krystal (View Bio)
Hardcover: The Free Press, 2001.

A Company of Readers

"Poets and professors and all those whose love of books exceeds their love of automobiles will welcome a chance to save in excess of 50% on their book purchases." — W. H. Auden

Between 1951 and 1962, the poet W. H. Auden, the historian Jacques Barzun, and the critic Lionel Trilling participated in a joint venture unique in the annals of American culture. Blending the commercial with the intellectual, these eminent writers and teachers established The Reader's Subscription Book Club and later The Mid-Century Book Society. They were the editorial boards and the writers of the clubs' periodicals, respectively The Griffin and The Mid-Century. Edited by Arthur Krystal, this book brings together a selection of their essays on books they selected for the clubs. They make for fascinating reading: Auden on Philip Larkin and Geoffrey Hill, on cooking and on drugs; Barzun on John Kenneth Galbraith, Robert Lowell, and Virginia Woolf; Trilling on James Baldwin's ANOTHER COUNTRY.

"A lit-crit treasure trove." — Newsweek

"A COMPANY OF READERS is one of those brilliant book ideas so 'obvious' that nobody ever thinks to carry them out. Merely to note a few particularly fortunate pairings of writer and subject is to suggest the endless riches of such a collection.... All three judges wrote of books in the clear, elegant language of the learned men who devoutly believed that culture is accessible to the nonspecialist, whatever his background or condition of life...[W]e have A COMPANY OF READERS to serve as a permanent — and uncomfortable — reminder that America at midcentury was a very different place indeed." — The Wall Street Journal

"A COMPANY OF READERS further reveals the depths of [Barzun's] roots in American letters...the book shows the mid-century giants in full public intellectual mode: introducing, pronouncing, off-handedly dismissing — acts that gave thousands of book club subscribers the terms by which they read the likes of Joyce, Baldwin, Faulkner, Colette, and many other greats." — Publishers Weekly

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