Do you wonder how to review a masterpiece without looking like a complete dunderhead? Are you looking for a method to make that literary Hinterstoisser traverse while the Kleine Scheidegg watches on? Then relax. Here are some tips gleaned from a master of literary criticism:
- Stress that teachers, students and any other readers have got it wrong, no matter what it is that we’re talking about.
- Stress that there are good and honourable motives for reading that are corrupted by any sense that any gain should be aimed for other than the pleasure of reading. This ensures that your readers can congratulate themselves for belonging, even if not economically, to the leisure classes.
- Suggest that part of the pleasure for readers should include taking pleasure in being admonished for being less than holy while being open to a book-full of correction in the error of their ways.
- The great masters of literary criticism – Samuel Johnson , William Hazlitt etc. – are the best insurance against fashions. So pick any current literary interest that doesn’t venerate these masters and identify that interest as a fashion.
- Make reference to multiple authors in a paragraph when explaining an observation in order to lend gravitas. Simply place each author with their attributes, all unreferenced, in opposition to or conjunction with each other. For example, you might assert that ‘When comparing Dostoevsky’s patience with Hardy’s indefatigability, their difference in marking time is made further apparent by Proust’s directness.’
Above all, in all your severity and finger-wagging, don’t forget to emphasise that reading is fun. Careful with those exclamation marks though.