How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide

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9780312359898: How to Read a Novel: A User's Guide

"Do we still know how to read a novel?" John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, asks. His answer is an unequivocal, "No." But Sutherland has not given up hope. With acerbic wit and intellect, he traces the history of what it used to mean to be well-read and tells readers what it still means today while reminding readers how the delicate charms of fiction can be at once wonderful and inspired and infuriating. On one level this is a book about novels but at a deeper level, this is a book in which one of the most intimate tête-à-têtes is described―one in which a reader meets a novel. However, in order for the relationship to take its proper course, a reader must know how to read it! Sutherland helps readers:
--Pick the right book for them among the cattle call of pre-packaged blurbs and enticing cover art
--Recognize a misleading title at first glance
--Look beyond the politics of book reviewers
--Learn to read the extras―epigraphs, forewords, afterwords―to understand themes only hinted at in the main text
--Find real aspects of the author cleverly hidden in the narrative structure
--And much more
In a book that is as wry and humorous as it is learned and opinionated, John Sutherland tells you everything you always wanted to know about how to read fiction better than you do now (but, were afraid to ask).

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About the Author:

JOHN SUTHERLAND is a professor at University College London who has published and edited numerous books. He writes for The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review, and London Review of Books. He was the 2005 Man Book Prize committee chairman. He lives in London, England.

From The Washington Post:

Lower the lifeboats, the situation is dire. According to the oft- cited survey "Reading at Risk," which was published by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 and has been justifiably worrying all those who care about books and reading ever since, the number of American adults who spend their free time reading literary fiction is rapidly sinking, statistically approaching the number of adults who have elective tracheotomies. At this rate of decline, highbrow novel readers will go under one by one, until, by the end of this century, there'll be only a few eccentric survivors left treading water, bookish versions of the last Shakers.

Out into this sea of despond rows John Sutherland. Best known in this country for his popular guides to 19th-century literature (graced with such chipper titles as: Is Heathcliff a Murderer? and Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?), Sutherland also boasts the gravitas of being, among other weighty accomplishments, the emeritus Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English literature at University College London and the committee chairman for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. What better figure -- a veritable critical Colossus with one foot planted in the academy and the other in the Grub Street of awards and book reviewing! -- to woo a sluggish reading public away from the dark maw of American Idol-land back to the enduring pleasures of, say, To the Lighthouse?

Sutherland's new book, How to Read a Novel, sets out to remind readers about what a miraculous thing a good novel is and how much enlightening fun it can be to take one apart, starting with its dedication, font and copyright date. (He does a dazzling riff, for instance, on the implications of the multiple copyright dates for D.H. Lawrence's scandalous homage to love-under-the-gorse, Lady Chatterley's Lover). The target audience for How to Read a Novel is those readers -- overwhelmingly female -- who belong to book groups. We know this because Sutherland loses no opportunity to shower book groups with praise far more intoxicating than the wine usually served at their monthly gatherings. He exalts book clubs as cultural sites of "readers' resistance" to publishing-industry hype. He opines that reading groups, "unlike the typical university seminar . . . privilege the female voice," and he pooh-poohs the common criticism that many book clubs devote as much time to gossip as they do to literary exegesis by declaring that gossip and fiction go hand in hand: "Women have always been the best readers of fiction -- which, typically, is what gossip is: 'stories' memorialising the events of the community, tittle-tattle, telling tales out of school." Most wince-making of all is this loony piece of readerly flattery that Sutherland flings out at the end of Chapter One: "It is, I would maintain, almost as difficult to read a novel well as to write one well."

No, no, it is not. The awe we readers experience when losing ourselves in a great novel partly arises out of the sane awareness that never, in a million years, could we have constructed, say, the sentence "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into our past." Easy to read (especially after a glass or two of that tongue-loosening Chablis at the neighborhood book group); impossible to create.

When he's not busy pandering to book-club members and their charge cards, Sutherland is frequently patronizing them. Do folks who are literate enough to browse around bookstores really need to be informed that sometimes one can judge a book by its cover or that, "if a book has chapter titles, then they are worth scanning before purchase" or that the books in bookstores are generally shelved by genre? At moments such as these it's hard not to suspect that Sutherland's view of the common reader is about on par with Nathanael West's vision of the moronic masses in The Day of the Locust.

Too bad, because, at his most genial, Sutherland embodies that literary persona the Brits affect so flawlessly: the raconteur who, fueled by a good fire and a tumbler or two of Glenlivet, can rattle on knowledgeably about books for hours. How to Read a Novel is at its best when Sutherland forgets about trying to woo or (spare us!) educate his audience and, instead, just tosses out provocative opinions about literary culture, as when he offers a one-word response to the million-dollar question of "Why waste one's time by reading novels?" His answer is "race." He claims that fiction, unlike nonfiction, need not "pull its punches" when discussing "hot-button issues" such as race (The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Human Stain, Beloved), Islamic fundamentalism (The Satanic Verses), euthanasia (Sons and Lovers) or pedophilia (Lolita). Certainly this thesis, like so many others Sutherland proffers, could spark spirited book group discussions. Why, though, as the waters close over their heads, book groups should be reading How to Read a Novel instead of the genuine article is a question Sutherland doesn't tackle.

Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Descripción St Martin s Press, United States, 2007. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Do we still know how to read a novel? John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, asks. His answer is an unequivocal, No. But Sutherland has not given up hope. With acerbic wit and intellect, he traces the history of what it used to mean to be well-read and tells readers what it still means today while reminding readers how the delicate charms of fiction can be at once wonderful and inspired and infuriating. On one level this is a book about novels but at a deeper level, this is a book in which one of the most intimate tete-a-tetes is described--one in which a reader meets a novel. However, in order for the relationship to take its proper course, a reader must know how to read it! Sutherland helps readers: --Pick the right book for them among the cattle call of pre-packaged blurbs and enticing cover art --Recognize a misleading title at first glance --Look beyond the politics of book reviewers --Learn to read the extras--epigraphs, forewords, afterwords--to understand themes only hinted at in the main text --Find real aspects of the author cleverly hidden in the narrative structure --And much more In a book that is as wry and humorous as it is learned and opinionated, John Sutherland tells you everything you always wanted to know about how to read fiction better than you do now (but, were afraid to ask). Nº de ref. de la librería BZE9780312359898

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Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature John Sutherland
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Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature John Sutherland
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Descripción Griffin. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Paperback. 263 pages. Dimensions: 8.2in. x 5.5in. x 0.8in.Do we still know how to read a novel John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, asks. His answer is an unequivocal, No. But Sutherland has not given up hope. With acerbic wit and intellect, he traces the history of what it used to mean to be well-read and tells readers what it still means today while reminding readers how the delicate charms of fiction can be at once wonderful and inspired and infuriating. On one level this is a book about novels but at a deeper level, this is a book in which one of the most intimate tte--ttes is described--one in which a reader meets a novel. However, in order for the relationship to take its proper course, a reader must know how to read it! Sutherland helps readers: --Pick the right book for them among the cattle call of pre-packaged blurbs and enticing cover art--Recognize a misleading title at first glance--Look beyond the politics of book reviewers--Learn to read the extras--epigraphs, forewords, afterwords--to understand themes only hinted at in the main text--Find real aspects of the author cleverly hidden in the narrative structure--And much moreIn a book that is as wry and humorous as it is learned and opinionated, John Sutherland tells you everything you always wanted to know about how to read fiction better than you do now (but, were afraid to ask). This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780312359898

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