Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

Francine does not believe that any one can learn creative writing, but she does believe we can all learn to appreciate text in a deep and very satisfying way.

I have a pretty troubled relationship to the classics. I've always been pretty leery of Austen, never managed to enjoy the Russian masters, and in general I managed to skip a lot of the Classics with a Capital C. This is despite doing English and Comparative Literature at university! I was much more comfortable with modern novels than the old stuff, and I never quite understood why people enjoyed them so much when I often found them turgid and kind of boring.

Now, I'm not about to say I've had a full 180 change of heart... but may 120 degree change. My eyes glazed and my brain grew resistant during the chapter about reading the English classics like the Bronte sisters and Austen, but I did learn a lot about words, sentences, and paragraphs. I learnt enough to consider tackling the rest of the Chekhov collection I have stashed somewhere; and I am consider reading some of Shakespeare as well. (Someone told me it helps to know the story before you read it, apparently!)

So despite me being an uneducated lout, I do read quite widely, and with Francine's book it was a lot like re-training me to read more thoughtfully and with greater chance to chew upon the words in the text. I read fast. I always have. And while reading Kant and Strauss at uni slowed me down, I don't think I have ever learnt to read quite like this before. It's not changed my way of inhaling the current Harlequin and Teen Harlequin novels I am reviewing, but I think it's opened me up to the possibilities of read *gasp* Literature.

Thanks to this book, I have now purchased The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lolita. But the Austen is staying firmly at the back of my shelves.

Sarah Lee Parker

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