'Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure, of course; but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, on our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in a relationship that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness. '
Book Review Circle gossip
We, the Book Lovers Club members indulge in literature at a time when instant gratification through TV, computer gaming, ipod music and social networking are ruling the roost. While we enjoy the profundity of thought and richness of emotion that only good literature can provide, we sure could do with a little help on critically understanding the myriad aspects of a good literary text. It is to this need that I dedicate this issue of Book Lovers Club News.
I did some research on how to read a literary text and here are my gleanings:
- The major things to note while reading a book are :
- Use of language- is the language evocative, descriptive, rustic, functional? Does the author use a lot of figurative expressions like similes, metaphors, personification, irony or sarcasm? If the author has used a particular writing style, why has he done so? What does he want to communicate by the use of such language?
- Structure- is the novel chronologically consistent or does the author start in the middle of the story and use flashbacks to narrate the first half of the story? If so, why? Does the author want to maintain the element of thrill in doing so? Or does telling a story in flashback enable the author to give a particular character's perspective? Does the author use one voice, or multiple voices to tell the story?
- Influence- The author is a human being who gets effected by what happens around him, by his socio-political circumstances and by what he reads. A full understanding of his works can only be achieved if we have knowledge of the influences that shape the author. To do this of course, a passionate reader needs to read a lot more about the author than just his works.
- Archetypes- Many a times the author uses cultural archetypes to reveal more than meets the eye. An archetype is 'An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned.' See if the text contains parallels to archetypes such as
- Mother Goddess( e.g. Durga in Hindu mythology),
- Faithful companion(e.g. Sancho Panza in Cervantes' Don Quixote),
- Hero(e.g. Odysseus in Homer's The Odyssey),
- Innocent(e.g. Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes),
- Misfit(e.g. Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn),
- Orphan(e.g. Snow White in the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs),
- Rebel/Outlaw (e.g. Robin Hood of English Folklore),
- Outcast(e.g. Jim in Conrad's Lord Jim),
- Trickster(e.g. Bugs Bunny in the popular cartoon series),
- Villain(e.g. Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice)
- Symbolism- More often than not, writers employ symbols to connote more than what the literary text says. For example,
- the description of a winter morning may mean death or harshness,
- the reference to a bath may mean a rebirth (from the Biblical Baptism),
- a journey may be mean a quest, and
- the color red may stand for passion
- A good book has to be reread at least once in order for the reader to understand most of what the author is trying to communicate
More on 'how to read a literary text' in the next issue of Book Lovers Club News.
Like the content of this issue? Loathe it? Pour your heart out by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
I love to hear from you and will use your suggestions to cater to the needs of the Book Lovers Club members in a better way.
Book Review Circle suggested read:
'How to Read Literature Like a Professor:
A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines' by Thomas C. Foster
Book Review Circle Quiz:
See if you know answers to the following
- In literature what does the Dove symbolize?
- What does the snake symbolize?
- What literary archetype is Ariel in the fairy tale The Little Mermaid?
- Peace, Purity, Simplicity
- Temptation, Evil
- The Rebel
Do write in to me at email@example.com with your comments, updates and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.
Ok. I will leave you to munch on that.
Happy reading till we meet again.