Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Archive for the category “Reading the Classics”

Review on Second Reading: The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

I didn’t review Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita the first time I read it (earlier this year) because I felt it was a bit beyond me. This second reading, however, just proves the assertion by both Steve Allen and Benjamin McEvoy that classics are made to be read more than once.

For one thing, my familiarity with the story made it easier for me to relax and see just how widely funny The Master and Margarita is. It also made it much easier to track the characters and their storylines. It was definitely easier, too, to follow how the storylines interacted with each other.

I can definitely say I will come back to this book again, to see what I find on a third reading, but for now I am content t have proven Allen and McEvoy right.

Why I Review the Way I Do

I have been noticing lately that my reviews often differ from those of a lot of other posters. So, I started thinking about what I write about when I review something, and why I choose those things.

To me, one of the most important things is the impact a book has (or not) on me. Sure, I could explain the plot like others do, or try to talk about every character, but there are others who can do that much better than I ever will. What I can do is share why a book has an impact on me – whether it’s a beloved classic or something totally out of my wheelhouse. That is the service I can provide best, although the “normal” review elements do peek in from time to time. I am more concerned with why you would want to read the book I’m talking about than with the book’s specific details.

As far as I can see, we read books for many reasons. Some we read like dessert – the light, fluffy treat at the end of a long day. Others we read because there is meat there. We suck the knowledge out like we suck marrow out of a soup bone (does anyone remember doing that as a kid?). Still others are some combination of the two. I believe that my job is not to reconstruct the book for you, but to let you know why I think it’s worth your time or not to pick up a particular book.

If that’s not what you are looking for in a book, so be it. I never thought I could please everyone. Go in peace and enjoy your reading – I honestly will not judge you. However, if you think my method is good, I am delighted to see you and share what I have learned, And, I have never stopped learning — every book I read teaches me *something* — even the light, fluffy ones have something to say that leaves an impact on me. Hopefully, I can communicate that impact well enough to help you make your reading decisions.

Review: How to Use the Power of the Printed Word, ed. by Billings S. Fuess, Jr.

How to Use the Power of the Printed Word Ed. by Billings S. Fuess, Jr., contains my absolute favorite article: the late Steve Allen’s “How to Enjoy the Classics.” Witty, with wonderful illustrations, I first encountered the article in Psychology Today back in the early 70s, as part of a series of articles called “The Power of the Printed Word,” sponsored by International Paper. In 1980, the articles were collected and published as this anthology.

While all the articles are worth reading, Steve Allen’s article had an immediate effect on me — I headed to the college library and took out the books Mr. Allen mentioned. While I cannot say I finished them all (some I was just too young to tackle or appreciate), reading as many of the classics as I could became a major part of my reading regimen.

It still is. There are many worthy guides to such reading available. Further, sites like Goodreads are more than happy to furnish such lists, as are various libraries and educational organizations. The Brooklyn Public Library even has a service called Brooklyn Book Match, where you can fill out a form on almost any topic, and a librarian will curate a list of five books to help you start a deep dive into your chosen topic.

Okay, this review has gone a bit far afield, but it is a topic dear to my heart, and I hope you search out How to Use the Power of the Printed Word and enjoy it as much as I did.

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