No Edith Wharton for Borges
from the Toronto Globe and Mail
Borges was strange, even bizarre, in his reading habits. His grandmother had been English, and he loved Anglo-Saxon poems so much that he learned to read Old English in order to enjoy them. He also embraced Virgil and Homer, and a host of difficult writers from the Renaissance to the 20th century.
At the same time, he was a huge fan of detective and science-fiction novels. He worshipped what are still considered middlebrow authors like Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson (Manguel's novella, Stevenson under the Palm Trees (Thomas Allen, 2003), is a kind of tribute to Borges's obsession with the author of Treasure Island).
Borges also memorized tango lyrics and "atrocious verses by long-dead poets." At the same time, he casually disliked and cast aside many of the "great" writers. "You could do a history of literature with the novels he didn't like," observes Manguel. Borges's hit list included Jane Austen, Cervantes, Edith Wharton and Garcia Lorca.