While it's fantastic that we have so many books so readily available to us from so many different sources, sometimes this can lead to a problem of just too much choice. So today I'm going to try to give some advice on how to (hopefully) pick out the best books. I'll try to avoid the really obvious suggestions of recommendations from friends, family, etc.
Read the middle pages
If a book doesn't seem like it's going anywhere or doing anything by the middle, then what are the chances that it will suddenly decide to pick up in the home stretch? And, are you really going to want to read through to the end to find out whether it does?
Judge a book by it's cover
It's a really bad idea for life in general, but it can be applied really well to books. A lot of time and energy goes into designing every cover, because publishers recognize that often people will be skimming though dozens of books, and they want theirs to stand out.
One thing that I think should set off some pretty massive warning bells is when the name of the writer is written in bigger font then the title (I am looking at you, Nicholas Sparks). What are they selling, the book or the writer?
Sadly, this reflects a common attitude
towards the study of English literature.
That it’s “wishy-washy”, and that English literature students just lounge
around in ivory towers, wearing scarves and trying to find the deeper meaning of texts where no such meaning exists.
I completely disagree with that idea, and
there is plenty of evidence to back up this view
When you write, you have to describe a
whole universe. You may choose to describe a world that is
similar, or nearly identical to our own, but nevertheless, you have a very
limited amount of words to describe this world and put your ideas across. So if you go out of the way to point out the
colour of the curtains, it’s probably significant.
Writers could also include these devices
Perhaps more importantly, maybe this isn’t
the question that we should be asking ourselves. Arguably, the whole point of studying
literature isn’t to determine what an author’s intentions were. If you can find
a metaphor in a piece of writing that makes you think, or see the world from a
different perspective, then does it really matter whether the writer wanted it
to be there or not?
we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city,
gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going
on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful
chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre
results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen
conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”
The other day I went to a lecture on
Formalism, and the lecturer explained to us how, according to Formalism,
literature uses literary devices to “roughen” or alter normal language and to
defamiliarize ordinary situations.
like Victor Shklovsky contend that in our everyday lives we become so used to
certain ideas or situations that we never stop to question them, or even notice
them. We stop truly seeing.
on, I nearly walked past my maths teacher. I just didn’t see her, because I
wasn’t expecting to see her, and I wasn’t even paying attention to the people
passing me on the street. I just assumed
that they were all complete strangers.
Question of the day: Is there an unpretentious way of talking
about how life imitates art?
There have been
a slew of dystopian novels released over the past few years, largely in the
wake of successful young adult series such as the Hunger Games and Noughts and
Crosses. So I thought it would be
interesting to go back and read some earlier dystopian novels. One of the most famous of these is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood.
This novel was a
real page-turner. The tension is palpable,
and it is really well written.
I liked the way
that some of the main characters, such as Nick and Cora were really ambiguously
portrayed. I wasn’t sure whether I liked
them or not, and I think that that made the story much more realistic. In a way, it mimics the way that people in
Gilead must have felt; they were could never be sure whether they liked or
trusted people, because anyone could be an Eye.
fascinated me was the way that in some situations, various individuals tried to
construe certain elements of the society as being matriarchal and freeing for
women, when in fact it clearly was not.
The bit that let
me down was the ending. Like so many
dystopian stories, the narrative ends on an ambiguous note. We are uncertain as to whether she is lead to
safety or too her doom.
then there is a historical note at the end that tells us that she does. The historical note tries to create another,
different, ambiguous ending, but frankly, it just doesn’t have the same