Monday, March 24, 2014

Reading Style: A Life in Sentences by Jenny Davidson

I think all of us have experienced this before. Sometimes, when we're reading, we come across a passage that moves us, even though we don't know why. While there are many many passages, there's one quote that moved an entire cohort:

"I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane." (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)
It's probably because we read this book while we were sixteen, but it impacted us more than what a school book normally would. I think it taught us that it's ok, normal even, to be very different from the norm.

So it was with great excitement that I started reading Reading Style: A Life in Sentences. This book is about examining how style impacts writing and it's emotional impact on the reader. Through a wide range of authors, from Anthony Burgess to George Eliot, Austen and even Stephen King, the author explores writing style. What makes this book different from a normal literary textbook is that the author's reading life and the impact these books have had on her is a focus of this book.

What I liked about this book is that the author doesn't claim to be The Authority when it comes to literature. She says that "it would be absurd to construe my preferences as objective verdicts on the respective merits of those two [books]". I heartily concur with this.

However, I found this book a bit hard to understand. Sometimes I don't know what the author is saying or why she finds it beautiful, but the passage is beautiful it makes me want to cry because I want to know more. Also, it makes me feel stupid that I have no idea what's going on. Of course, this is probably because I haven't touched literature in two years and even when I was studying literature, I found things like "theme" and "character" easier to understand than "diction".

If you're a literature student (or have some knowledge of literature) wanting to go deeper into writing style, this is the book for you. If you're a casual reader, well, it's worth picking up this book, but don't expect to be able to breeze through it.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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