Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday with Words: How to Read a Book

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.
   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
So, how does one read a story? (p.218)
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.

5 comments:

  1. Hello,

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    http://www.thegreatideas.org/HowToReadABook.htm

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler
    Hello,

    We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    http://www.thegreatideas.org/HowToReadABook.htm

    ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

    Thank you,

    Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler

    ReplyDelete
  2. Laura, I actually enjoy reading this book but I seem to not get to it often. Perhaps I should have attempted the book discussion on the forum but I probably would have gotten just as sidetracked as I do now, trying to read it with the kids for school.
    Great bits you've brought out of it to share with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its not too late - there's still much of this book to go, and only a few pages a week. I'm glad I'm reading it, even if the style gets on my nerves sometimes :)

      Delete
  3. I've started this a couple of times over the years and have never gotten this far. I do wish to live in those beautiful, fictional worlds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, me too, me too. Maybe when I get of the computer I'll go live at Watership Down :)

      Delete

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