Wednesday, June 1, 2016
The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
Disclaimer: I checked this book out of the public library.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
I love books about books and this book adds an extra layer of wonderfulness---it is about the special aspects incorporated by authors which made their books special...special aspects we can learn from if we want to improve our writing. I honestly (and obviously) am not as interested in the writing tips as I was in the reading tips.
Clark divides the book into 25 chapters. Each chapter is titled X-Raying (insert title of book or author name): what we can learn from that text or author. For example:
1. X-Raying Gatsby: Power of the Parts
2. X-Raying Lolita: Words at Play
3. X-Raying Hemingway and Didion: Words Left Out
The chapters are short, less than 20 pages each. The end of each chapter highlights tips for a writer.
Just using the chapter titles and these chapter tips could be helpful for a person who wants to improve their writing. For example, chapter 12 uses examples from Homer, Virgil, Roth, and Hitchcock about the skill of zooming in and out on the action. Clark makes the point that sometimes we need to view the action from afar and other times we need to see it close up. It adds interest to change the composition and "cinematography" as a movie director would. "Consider point of view. What does your character see, and what do you want your reader to see?.. Avoid the mistake of viewing everything from a safe middle distance."
As I've said before I need all the help I can get to understand classics books. I've never actually had a college level literature class. Books like this one, The Art of X-Ray Reading, really helped me to understand the symbolism and special details in books. The first chapter looks at the classic book The Great Gatsby. Clark helps me see some of the common objects Fitzgerald used with deeper meanings: the ferryboat (transportation of the dead); the island (a placed where one is lost or abandoned); the two Eggs separated by an industrial wasteland (journey through the underworld where bad things happen); recurring words (pay attention for these and what the author wants you to notice.)
After reading this chapter on Gatsby I instantly starting thinking about the teachers in my school who might enjoy reading it or sharing it with their students. I am not the only who loves books about books. I will be purchasing a copy of this book for my high school library considering that is will likely be used mainly as a professional resource. But who knows? I suspect that students who are aspiring writers will find a lot of helpful tips in this gem of a book.