Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

David Mikics. Harvard Univ./Belknap, $27.95 (332p) ISBN 978-0-674-72472-3
Although University of Houston English professor Mikics (The Art of the Sonnet) presents the guidelines in this thoughtful book as an antidote to the “continuous partial attention” that comes with distracted reading on the Internet, they are in fact the ground rules of the lit-crit technique known as “close reading,” pioneered by American academics in the middle of the 20th century. As he ably demonstrates, those rules are still valid for understanding literature today, and for an enriched reading experience. Likening engagement with a new book to traveling to a new land, Mikics offers 14 preliminary rules for familiarizing oneself with the terrain and applies them in studies of short stories, novels, poems, essays, and plays. Several rules seem obvious: “Be Patient,” “Get a Sense of Style,” and “Use the Dictionary.” For others, like “Identify Signposts,” “Track Key Words,” and “Find the Parts,” he shows how careful application of these rules deepens the reader’s grasp of the text—notably in his insightful deconstruction of Chekhov’s short story “Gooseberries.” Mikics writes accessibly and with infectious enthusiasm on an impressively eclectic range of classic and contemporary texts. The reader who picks up this volume will likely already have been won over to Mikics’s argument, but the book’s pedagogical value for students is considerable. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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