09 January 2011

Book 1 of 2011

I finished this Sunday evening, relaxing at home.

How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

Having bought this book last year, started it in October on a day I was home sick and finally finishing it after a long grading session concluded in December, I find that Thomas Foster's basic literary criticism is helpful to anyone looking to understand the why of what they have read.

Foster's previous book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, covered some of the same ideas, but here he gets into some helpful specifics and informative history specifically about novels. His tone is conversational. What I liked most about Literature was how each chapter could roughly translate to one period-long lecture. The same applies here. The big improvement to this book from the last one are the various "Law of [Cleverly Punned Title]" that details a general rule to follow when reading a novel. These are the kinds of common sense approaches to reading and interacting with a text that I feel would be a great benefit to my students, so I annotated each of them and plan to make a list prior to their big lit project next year.

My sole complaint has to do with the choices Foster makes in the examples he uses. He really focuses on Joyce, Faulkner, Dickens and the Victorian-era novelists, the latter to really illustrate the point of how much has changed in the modern and postmodern period. This goes to my own personal preferences, but I found myself trying to make associations between what he has read, a lot of which with I am unfamiliar, to the kind of authors I enjoy. Mostly, I would have liked to see more books that I've read mentioned as opposed to the ones he discusses. I guess part of the point is for the reader to apply their reading knowledge and history to the lessons he's teaching through the text. But he and I like different things and that makes him wrong and me right. 

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