I have loved reading ever since I can remember. If it had been possible for me at all I would have studied and taught literature. Since I did something entirely different in my life it was always a desire to study literature. I always feel that when read I am missing stuff – the in-between the lines, the symbolism. I kinda , sorta grasp the larger and deeper meanings but not entirely. So I am always on the lookout for articles or books that help me read better. When I saw ‘How to Read Novels like a Professor’ in my library, I took it in a wink.
I really really enjoyed reading it. Thomas Foster writes in a completely engaging style not once sounding like a professor 🙂 or a textbook. I learned quite a few things – elements to recognize as you read, relationship of the writer and reader, the influences on a narrative, the changes in the form of the novel in the last three to four hundred years. I am huge fan of the victorian novels which I now realize are serialized novels with tidy endings.Foster does not seem to be fond of tidy complete endings and I almost felt defensive of Dickens ( who I believe was a genius with a masterful command of English language) whose work was proabably the most traditional victorian style of it all. However,I admit that when I read 20th century literature , more than the story itself, I am always looking for unique form and structure. Because at the end of the day – its all one large human story. Novels are all about presentation. That is the reason I loved David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Its challenging and fun to keep up with writers whose narratives surprise you from chapter to chapter. I also learned something very basic – there is no right way or wrong way to read the book.
This books acts as a very good guide to anyone wanting to be a big fiction writer. Yes, its more about how to write a novel rather than how to read a novel.For me apart from the learning elements, the most fun part of the book was the references to novels while explaining his point. As Foster puts it – the books is ‘ a giant reading list’. I loved to see so many familiar names, but was also disheartened to know that I have read so few pieces of good literature.
I would recommend this to anyone who loves reading. Period.