The follow-up and companion volume to the New York Times bestselling How to Read Literature Like a Professor—a lively and entertaining guide to understanding and dissecting novels to make everyday reading more enriching, satisfying, and fun
Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today’s masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history.
Thomas C. Foster—the sage and scholar who ingeniously led readers through the fascinating symbolic codes of great literature in his first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor—now examines the grammar of the popular novel. Exploring how authors’ choices about structure—point of view, narrative voice, first page, chapter construction, character emblems, and narrative (dis)continuity—create meaning and a special literary language, How to Read Novels Like a Professor shares the keys to this language with readers who want to get more insight, more understanding, and more pleasure from their reading.
Covering a range of novelists from the classic to the slightly idiosyncratic, Foster (How to Read Literature Like a Professor) expounds on the various elements of novel construction and offers advice on how to analyze them. Foster maintains a conversational tone throughout, offering pithy interjections among his literary explication (on the possibility of having a reliable narrator in Huck Finn: "Now seriously, where's the fun in that?"). Each chapter of the book breaks down a different part of the novel, from the significance of Faulkner's repeated use of the word "self-abnegation" to the intermingling of philosophy and fiction, particularly in the work of John Fowles, one of Foster's favorite writers. Foster's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable, but his audience will probably be limited to students, given the combination of examples like Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf (English course staples) and the tone of Foster's explanations often simplistic to a degree that would seem condescending to more experienced readers, as when he emphasizes that "the narrative voice in a novel is a device invented by the writer" and then explains the idea for a full paragraph.