cover image How to Read Novels Like a Professor

How to Read Novels Like a Professor

Thomas C. Foster, . . Harper Paperbacks, $13.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-06-134040-6

Covering a range of novelists from the classic to the slightly idiosyncratic, Foster (How to Read Literature Like a Professor ) expounds on the various elements of novel construction and offers advice on how to analyze them. Foster maintains a conversational tone throughout, offering pithy interjections among his literary explication (on the possibility of having a reliable narrator in Huck Finn: “Now seriously, where's the fun in that?”). Each chapter of the book breaks down a different part of the novel, from the significance of Faulkner's repeated use of the word “self-abnegation” to the intermingling of philosophy and fiction, particularly in the work of John Fowles, one of Foster's favorite writers. Foster's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable, but his audience will probably be limited to students, given the combination of examples like Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf (English course staples) and the tone of Foster's explanations—often simplistic to a degree that would seem condescending to more experienced readers, as when he emphasizes that “the narrative voice in a novel is a device invented by the writer” and then explains the idea for a full paragraph. (July)