Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Katherine Ashenburg

Katherine Ashenburg is the prize-winning author of three non-fiction books and hundreds of articles on subjects that range from travel to mourning customs to architecture.

Her latest book is The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History. From the Publishers Weekly review: "Brimming with lively anecdotes, this well-researched, smartly paced and endearing history of Western cleanliness holds a welcome mirror up to our intimate selves, revealing deep-seated desires and fears spanning 2000-plus years."

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
This reaches me in London, where I am doing publicity for Clean, as my new book, called The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History in North America, is titled in Britain. While here, I am rereading Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby for the first time in, maybe, 35 years. The practical reason is that, when I return to Toronto, I am going to see Nicholas Nickleby, the play, and thought it would be good to refresh my memory. Another practical reason, which didn't occur to me until I packed, was that while usually I travel with several books, it is much more convenient to carry one, even though this one has 770 pages! I'm delighted with my choice: early Dickens (this is his 3rd novel) reads quickly, is packed with incident and humour. It's fun for me to remember famous set pieces and funny bits, and to come upon other parts (sometimes whole chapters) that seem completely new.

I do have to admit that I am varying the Dickens with a few other things -- a guide to Stockholm, where I am going for Easter weekend, and a new Spanish mystery, given to me by my publishers here, Profile. It's called Tattoo, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, and will be published this year. The detective, based in Barcelona, has a taste for good food, and Amsterdam, two favourites of mine.
Read more about The Dirt on Clean, and visit Katherine Ashenburg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue