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Reading Style: A Life in Sentences by Jenny…

Reading Style: A Life in Sentences

by Jenny Davidson

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Author Jenny Davidson is both an English and Comparative Literature professor and an inveterate reader. She reads everything from classics to old but forgotten books, from high-brow literature to popular novels. Reading Style is a mix of all of these things. Although it refers to some literary theory, the author explains early on that what informed her decisions to talk about specific books was not a desire to”[make] an argument about style” but to share passages that “speak to [her] strongly.”

Lately I’ve been loving books about books and books about people who loves books. In many ways, Reading Style did not disappoint. Author Jenny Davidson is fun and passionate and clearly very much in love with the written word. Sharing her passion for particular sentences and writing styles was generally enjoyable. There were a few sections where she focused on authors who weren’t to my taste and I was surprised how much this could make a section drag. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me though, given how liberally she quoted and how much my enjoyment of the book depended on entering into her enthusiasm. When I wasn’t loving the authors she was sharing, I often enjoyed the thought-provoking points she raised about the merits of style and substance in literature.

Even though I’m someone who enjoys thinking about the roles literature plays in our lives, the author sometimes waxed a bit too philosophical for me. In the age old criticism of literary criticism, it’s fair to say that I sometimes felt the author was investing too much meaning in the text she shared. I also sometimes found her writing very dense and hard to follow. Unfortunately, two of the last chapters were focused on authors I didn’t enjoy. They were also some of the trickier chapters to get through. As a result, I finished the book feeling very ready to be done with it. However, parts of the book were truly fantastic and if you’re someone who loves beautiful writing, I’d recommend giving this a shot.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
1 vote DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0231168586, Hardcover)

A professor, critic, and insatiable reader, Jenny Davidson investigates the passions that drive us to fall in love with certain sentences over others and the larger implications of our relationship with writing style. At once playful and serious, immersive and analytic, her memoir/critique shows how style elicits particular kinds of moral judgments and subjective preferences, which turn reading into a highly personal and political act.

Melding her experiences as reader and critic, Davidson opens new vistas onto works by Jane Austen, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Thomas Pynchon; adds richer dimension to critiques of W. G. Sebald, Alan Hollinghurst, Thomas Bernhard, and Karl Ove Knausgaard; and allows for a sophisticated appreciation of popular fictions by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lionel Shriver, George Pelecanos, and Helen DeWitt. She privileges diction, syntax, point of view, and structure over plot and character, identifying the intimate mechanics that draw us in to literature's sensual frameworks and move us to feel, identify, and relate. Davidson concludes with a reading list of her favorite titles so others can share in her literary adventures and get to know better the imprint of her own reading style.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:47 -0400)

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