You might think, as I did, that "How to Read a Book" is a silly name for a book. I mean, you couldn't read it if you didn't know how to read a book, so how is that helpful?? Mr. Mortimer Adler and Charles Doren, authors, disagree, and now that I'm just over halfway through this dense work, I can honestly say that there is a bit more to reading a book than being able to discern the words and their meanings.
This is not a particularly fun book to read, but it is scheduled in the high school years over at Ambleside Online, and someone started a book discussion for it, so I joined. (I think I've *tried* all but 2 that have started since the forum began, LOL!) There are bits of humor here and there, but it reads a bit like a textbook on occasion, because it is so. very. orderly.
We have gotten to chapter 15 (Suggestions for Reading Stories, Plays and Poems), and I am posting the book discussion to the forum tonight, so thought I might share some of the quotes I found interesting here as well. While the first half of this book focused on expository writings, we have finally gotten to the discussion on fiction - myths, novels, stories. Yay!
Imaginative writings can lead to action, but the do not have to. They belong in the realm of fine art.So, how does one read a story? (p.218)
A work of fine art is "fine" not because it is "refined" or "finished," but because it is an end (finis, Latin, means end) in itself. It does not move toward some result beyond itself. It is, as Emerson said of beauty, its own excuse for being. p.217
Read it quickly and with total immersion.
Try as hard as you can to live in his world, not in yours;
Unless you read it quickly you will fail to see the unity of the story.
And a funny! :) (p.219)
This is true of any big novel-and if a novel is really good, we want it to be as big as possible.
All of this comes down to the same point: you must finish a story in order to be able to say that you have read it well. p.220
And finally, to sum up this section.... (p.221-222)
Thus in criticizing fiction we must be careful to distinguish those books that satisfy our own particular unconscious needs-the ones that make us say, "I like this book, although I don't really know why" -from those that satisfy the deep unconscious needs of almost everybody. The latter are undoubtedly the great stories, the ones that live on and on for generations and centuries. As long as man is man, they will go on satisfying him, giving him something that he needs to have - a belief in justice and understanding and the allaying of anxiety. We do not know, we cannot be sure, that the real world is good. But the world of a great story is somehow good. We want to live there as often and as long as we can.Just beautiful.