James Wood, a staff writer for The New Yorker and lecturer in literature at Harvard, describes the devices a novelist uses to convey a story to the reader. How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24) covers a wide range in the genre, from the novels of Austen to those of Graham Greene. Reading Wood’s slim and erudite guide to literature caused me to plan a rereading of Flaubert, who “decisively established what most readers and writers think of as modern realistic narrative.” Wood cites passages from John Updike’s The Terrorist that significantly added to my understanding of the different ways the puppeteer was pulling the strings. Wood is a friendly, plain-speaking guide, even in areas where the layers of the creative process get dense.  What do Austen, Roth, and David Foster Wallace have in common?  The use of different registers, which is a literary way of saying the author uses diction specific to different characters, whether vernacular, pompous, or clichéd.

How Fiction Works Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312428471
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Picador - July 21st, 2009

 In Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America (Doubleday, $24.95), Jay Parini, a novelist and teacher, has compiled a list of literary works that were instrumental in “shaping the nation’s idea of itself” by having “shifted consciousness in some public fashion.”  Parini’s selections include the novels Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; essays, like The Federalist Papers; and biographies, like Mary Antin’s The Promised Land. This collection will make a wonderful reading list for a class or bookgroup. Parini’s own essays weave a history of each work with his take on the author’s intentions and the effect the book had when published.

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307386182
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Anchor - January 12th, 2010

George Orwell’s powerful prose and critical mind are on display in All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays (Harcourt, $25), critiquing art, literature, film, and popular culture. Wonderful pieces discussing Dickens, Swift, Chaplin, Greene, and Gandhi combine a cogent treatise on their use of language and image, while simultaneously marrying the work to the underpinnings of political, religious, and philosophical thought guiding them.  Other pieces, such as “Good Bad Books” and “Confessions of a Book Reviewer,” show Orwell’s humorous side and voracious appetite for the written word in all forms, both high and low.

All Art Is Propaganda Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156033077
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Mariner Books - October 14th, 2009