"Ask the booksellers of London what is become of all these lights of the world."
Some 40 nonclassic books are discussed by Professor Perrin in this pleasant volume of literary preferences. By a classic, Noel Perrin means a work that everyone recognizes as highly important, even though one may never have opened it: something like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Here he gives us, instead, a number of good books that he has enjoyed and thinks you and I would enjoy—a few pages to each book.
To my delight, I find that Dr. Perrin dislikes the books I dislike—among them Silas Marner, most of William Dean Howells' fiction, and (I infer) the bulk of the rubbishy novels that are thrust upon us by the big book-review media nowadays. What is still better, I find among his 40 volumes some of the authors I most cherish. Permit me to set down a few succinct comments on some of those writers described by Perrin and approved by Kirk.
First of all we encounter Freya Stark, the most percipient of those talented Englishwomen who have written wisely about their travels in distant lands. Perrin commends her Iranian adventures and observations in The Valleys of the Assassins, the first Stark book that I happened upon. I like especially her Rome on the Euphrates, a remarkable piece of historical interpretation; and her...