An interesting read that reminded me why I didn't pursue English Lit beyond A-level. A little bit like physics, whilst I'm capable, I don't particularly enjoy it.

Unlike physics, I firmly believe that much lit crit and indeed literary appreciation is purely subjective. Prose's examples did nothing to dissuade me of this as I frequently disagreed with her. I didn't find the qualities she enjoys in the passages she cited, or I felt that her analysis relied heavily on the broader context of the novel (and/or her own context) rather than being implicit in the example.

Unlike Prose, I'm not a huge fan of Literature with a capital L – I enjoy storytelling – and I do believe good writing can be found outside its hallowed halls. I would have enjoyed this more without the whiff of snobbery (at one point a work is 'at risk' of appearing to be magical realism – how awful for it! – rather than a Work of Art). And for my sins, I have no intention of reading Chekhov.

However, Prose is an engaging writer and her passion for literature is infectious. Her basic points are sensible and well-made for readers seeking to get under the skin of their books and for writers aspiring to make their words work a little harder – even if, as she is at pains to point out in the closing chapter, great literature largely shows us that all rules are made to be broken as long as you're good enough to get away with it.

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