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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Rachel Joyce
Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter
Ellen J. Prager
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines - Thomas C. Foster This book was kind of funny to me. The author is like, "xyz MEANS something! Symbolism abounds. NO?? YOU DOUBT?? Blah blah blaaah blah!!" For me, I know that "xyz means something" and symbolism is everywhere, so I needed no cajoling. I was raised by an English professor--one who wrote his dissertation on Joyce, of all authors, and got his PhD from the University of Iowa, of all places. A lot of times I felt like what the author was saying was beyond obvious, just completely apparent. I'm not sure how much of that has to do with my dad's influence, with the fact that I see almost everything as a symbol anyway, or with the fact that it really was obvious, as other reviewers have said. But it was engaging and mostly enjoyable.

I did take off a full star when he said "comfortably patriarchal." Those two words don't belong together, especially as there wasn't any hint it was ~ironic~ (I might say that phrase super-sarcastically myself; although the author might try to say he was being ironic, he never makes a mention of how the patriarchy actually hurts people so it would be a tough sell for me). That phrase was symbolic of his straight-Christian-white-male worldview. Yeah, he finds a lot of worthy stuff in Toni Morrison's writing, and yes, he smatters some praise on a few white Western European women writers. But it seems that he really is comfortable in his bubble. I noticed that he talked about men characters as heroes that were fully autonomous and women characters he tended to treat (I think subconsciously) as objects. When he was talking about violence, he said that in "real life" violence doesn't "mean" anything, which I also disagree with. People aren't motivated to punch people without some reason. I think the fact that a huge proportion of women are raped and our culture mostly ignores them (and blames them when they're not ignoring them) and takes no real steps to actually stop men from raping IS a symptom of a deep-seated misogyny. And that's just one example. He once touched upon gender roles as "political" but didn't really delve any deeper than that. But I digress...

I'm torn between giving this book 2 & 3 stars... If someone asked me how I liked it, I'd probably say "It was okay," which is a two star rating. But I feel that if you want to "read literature like a professor" and don't know anything about symbolism or patterns, this would be a good place to start. This would have been a great assigned summer read for my first AP English class, which students were always derailing to talk about symbols and intentions of authors. I thought his analysis of the short story "The Garden Party" was the best part of the whole book (besides the short story itself, which he didn't write). The level on which "a hawk is only a hawk" is my favorite level to read on, though: I find so much more feeling there. When I start looking for allusions, I don't usually get much enjoyment out of it. It's like "woop-de-doo, I found it..." Of course for my favorite favorite books, the ones I never get sick of reading, I find intense discussion of them really fun. Otherwise I mostly DGAF. I prefer nonfiction to fiction most days and think that there's so much to tease out of everything surrounding me in "real life" that doing it in literature seems like just a distraction in my life--though I do get the appeal.