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If you're a writer or a literary-minded reader, this set of lectures is insightful and immeasurably practical. The idea is teach styles and literary devices through example of works of great literature. Many of the examples used were not necessarily in my wheelhouse of normal reading, but the lessons still came across easily.
Prof. Spurgin is, on the whole, a good educator. His presentation is clear and well-constructed. I was often distracted, however, his delivery. It came. Across. At times like. William. Shatner. Should have. Been speaking. Ok, perhaps it wasn't quite as bad as all of that, but once noticed, it cannot be unnoticed. If you try this title out, apologies in advance for ruining that for you.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
Excellent! A charming, humorous teacher and many tips about how to see more in the fiction I'm going to read anyway. This is basically an introductory course on literary analysis, I'd say, and I loved the concepts of watching for the initial destabilizing event, and the two "master plots" --- a stranger comes to town, or the hero takes a journey. I liked the free indirect voice, the narrator voice that slides over into the psyche of the main character in descriptions. I liked a lot of the examples, most of which I was familiar with. I skipped the Russians and the experimental fiction of the early 20th century such as Ulysses and Virginia Woolf's stuff -------- because sometimes in life you have to make an executive decision not to bother with yucky stuff that's more a puzzle than a good read. Same with his discussion of Portnoy's Complaint: I bought that long ago because the New York Review of Books said to, and halfway through stared at it in dismay and distaste and realized something important: I was out of school, and never never never in my life ever again had to read anything disgusting because some poseur said I had to. (And I never renewed the NY Review of Books, either.) So none of our prof's "must reads" actually are musts, after all, because we are grown up. We can apply his tips to the books we like to read.
Also, I was puzzled at the prof's topic of "metanovels," novels about novels. Good, I thought, because there are a LOT of novels and short stories about writing, or books, or somebody stealing another person's writings, and I like thrillers with that topic. But it turned out to be a lecture on some wildly experimental fiction that sounded to me like "magical realism," that school of writing which bitter British writers say is simply fantasy by writers who happen to live in South America. However, I figure a lit prof is inevitably going to drag in some books nobody actually reads and short the popular ones: it's inevitable. He did NOT drag in Ahab and That Hated Whale, but he did have a good general lecture on descriptions, short or long.
Quick and light lecture series, I recommend it. I'm going to see if he's done any others.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
Professor Spurgin knows his stuff and while the Art of Reading will be useful to lovers of books, it tends to be more of a guide to writing fiction. This lecture series will be valuable to beginning writers and more experienced ones too. If anything, it teaches you how to read like a writer--and the most important thing a writer should do is read!
Overall, the narration is good, and well paced, but occasionally Prof Spurgin seems to slip into some weird phrasing, a kind of HALTING. WAY. OF. SPEAKING. This mostly happens when he's reading a passage from a book or if he's trying to sound more enthusiastic about something. It reminds me of the Rabbi on Seinfeld. Not the end of the world though, but now that I've mentioned it I bet you won't be able to ignore it! Ha.
Whether you are a student at school or a lifelong learner, this series will help you to get the most from the fiction you are reading, and break it down for analysis, as well as enjoyment. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this course.