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Spoiler Alert! – How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

The loudest advice

I’ve borrowed this book from a bookish friend more than a month ago and I’ve been reading a few chapters of it whenever I’ve already met the minimum reading quota for the day. So yes, I have a reading quota, and yes, I’ve been slugging through this book.

Which is fine because I get to sink into the pieces of advice that the author has regarding reading novels properly. By properly, I mean reading it with a more academic behavior, like getting the meanings of certain passages that seem to say something, speculating the themes, and interpreting the style, the diction, the tone, the mood, the narration, the point of view, and all that stuff that literature classes are made of. And the question is, is this really necessary?

Well, it is a nice book to read, but I don’t think it’s necessary to do so, especially if one is already a keen and discerning reader. The only complaint that I have with this book is that it tends to spoil novels big time. Here are some of the novels that are mentioned in it that I’m planning to read plus the corresponding spoiler level:

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles – 5/5. Every major plot twist and turn! He even indicated which chapter they would come. I don’t think I will be blown away with the supposed surprise factor when I get to read this.
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov – 5/5. Everything! The structure, the mystery behind it, heck, I feel that I can already claim to have read this.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – 5/5. A detailed character study of each of the four daughters. Reading this would feel like a breeze to me since somebody already analyzed it for me.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – 4/5. Major, and minor, plot details. As if reading The Hours before this is not yet enough.
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – 4/5. Some character descriptions. Detailed character descriptions.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – 3/5. Some character descriptions, some major details.
  • The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell – 3/5. The whole structure of the whole series. Also the themes.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 2/5. The ending.
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – 2/5. The major motifs and metaphors.
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – 2/5. The dilemma of the characters, although I am not too sure if we are meant to know that before reading the novel.

I generally do not mind spoilers, but I don’t understand myself why I was enraged when I read through all those. You can argue that it should be expected with a book like this because it is a book that is inclined to discuss novels. It’s a book about novels, for crying out loud!

And actually, there are other novels that are discussed lengthily in the book, but I didn’t mind those because I’ve already read them. So, let me ask, how far can one go as far as spoilers are concerned?

But yes, I am still going to read those ten novels with curiosity. It could be that I sometimes do mind spoilers, but I am not daunted when blasted with one. And oops, I almost forgot one more novel that’s heavily discussed in the book.

Ulysses by James Joyce – 1/5. Is it really possible to spoil this novel?

Date Started: May 13, 2012. 07:00 PM. Book #29 of 2012.


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