05 March 2012

28. How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Hot to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines - Thomas C. Foster

I was really hoping to enjoy this book more and to learn a lot more than I did. I picked up a few tips and hints, but nothing like I had envisioned before picking up this book. The biggest thing I learned was that even at a professorial level you are still limited by your own experiences and your own memory as to how you are going to translate or interpret literature. Everyone will see things differently. The same person at different times will see different things.

What is the point then? Mostly it is to get past the emotional reader level as the only reaction to a book. That will always be a prime reason for me to read. I like how a book can repulse me or make me smile. Those are emotional reactions. But this book tries to explain why I get those reactions on more than just a feel good or bad level.

It was interesting to read about the different topics the author wanted to discuss. There were chapters called: Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not), If It's Square, It's a Sonnet, When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare..., ...Or the Bible, It's Greek to Me, It's More Than Just Rain or Snow, Is That a Symbol, It's All About Sex..., ...Except Sex, and so on. Each one of them showed how an author uses little tricks of the trade to relate his story back to something you have seen before in order to elicit a given response.

There were some highlighted one line tidbits throughout the book that explained a lot:
"The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge."
"Ghosts and vampires are never only about ghosts and vampires."
"There is no such thing a wholly original work of literature."
"It's never just rain."
"Flight is freedom."
"Irony trumps everything."
"When writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok."

You know what really pissed me off about this book though? I was hoping to learn from it. I was hoping to garner some kind of secrets from the inner sanctum. I was hoping to get a peak into the workers of a secret society, if only for a second. I went in with high expectations and even higher hopes...until page three. Yep, page THREE!

The first example the author used to explain something he wanted his reader to understand...the one he found to be the perfect example to go first...was this...
"I always begin with the greatest quest novel of the last century: Thomas Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 (1965)."
As you may remember from my review about two weeks ago concerning The Crying of Lot 49...I didn't like that book. So, this man told me on page three that he was one of those pretentious asses that is going to turn crap into something significant because it is so beyond anything of it's kind...blah blah. From that moment I knew I was not going to get what I was looking for and hoped to pick up a little thing here or there that I could use. I did that. But, overall the book ended up solving nothing and leaving a ton of stuff open to whatever the reader wanted it to be.

Is that a symbol for something? It can be if it symbolizes something to you. It is whatever it is for whomever wants it to be whatever they want it to be. Yackity yack yack yack. I think I will just stick to enjoying a book and not analyzing it through the eyes of Plato or Shakespeare. I am perfectly happy being one of the ignorant masses that will never be a snobbish member of the elite academia. Whatever.

I am glad I didn't pay for this one.

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