I’ve heard of Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren’s How to Read a Book here and there before, but decided to give it a read after seeing Henry Dampier’s review of it, and thinking that it may be useful, especially since I’m trying to read more (and maybe even read better) this year.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the book as helpful as I thought I might, though that’s not really the fault of the authors. My main problem is simply that I’m already doing some of the things they suggest, e.g. “inspectional” reading, skim- or pre-reading, or taking notes. The reminders don’t hurt, and I did pick up a few things, but I didn’t really need 336 pages of it, either.
The most relevant section for me was on syntopical reading, which involves methodically reading several books on the same subject. This would be very helpful for undertaking a research project, and to some extent I have approximated this recently, though not in such an organised fashion as they describe, and I have a hard time imagining making this my primary method of reading.
Overall, I’d highly recommend the book to high school or college students, and it is worth a quick read-through for everyone. It’s not quite on the same subject since it focuses on literature, but for those who want to read a book about reading I’ve always highly recommended Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading.
Next up on the reading list is another book about the Habsburgs, this time The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815, by Charles W. Ingrao.…
The first thing most people notice when they read Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” is how amazingly short it is – just two lines, plus a title. By making the work so brief, Pound successfully denies the reader a sense of closure or fulfillment after finishing the poem, which emphasizes the work’s implication of the anonymity and listlessness of the people in the titular metro station. Although Pound certainly could have made the work longer and more developed, the work is ultimately strengthened by denying the reader any development of its central idea.
The primary result of Pound’s denial of closure in “In a Station of the Metro” is the sense that the poem is just a passing observation of a morning commuter. First, one should notice that the full poem consists of a sentence fragment. This gives the impression that the work is incomplete, that the writer has either just started or just now had the inspiration to write. This effect is significant to the poem’s theme because it implies that even the poet does not have the time or motive to fully develop what sounds like a very promising start to a work.…
As you may have guessed from the length of my last post, I admire Ezra Pound.
I’ve found, though, that I’m one of a relative few. His poetry seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair, and I can certainly understand those who don’t care for him. Much of his poetry is difficult, his references obscure, and his politics generally right-wing but eclectic enough mostly to just throw people off, except that he vocally supported Benito Mussolini, and even those critics who appreciate, say, T.S. Eliot’s conservatism will draw a line at that.
Yet, with the sole exception of Eliot, Pound is the best poet I know of the past 400 years or so since Shakespeare. He’s also the most important, because even if one prefers some other writer of his generation, Pound very likely knew and influenced him to at least some degree. For example, a professor of mine once commented that Pound’s hand in editing Eliot’s The Waste Land is so great that one could almost call it the first Canto.…
This post is a revised version of an essay I wrote a few years ago; I’m posting it here in honour of Pound’s upcoming birthday. Please forgive its length – I’ll go back to my normal style shortly after this. For now, think of it as a preview of the literature-focused website I mentioned working on in last week’s post.
Though many poets write about social, political, and economic issues, few have made such matters as integral to their work as Ezra Pound. Literary criticism would always form a large part of his prose work, like ABC of Reading, but he wrote at least as much on economics and politics, like ABC of Economics, Jefferson and/or Mussolini, and segments of Guide to Kulchur. Even in his poetry, references to historical figures like John Adams and Sigismundo Malatesta outnumber artists.
The apparent catalyst for Pound’s concern with socio-economic matters was the First World War. Prior to the war, most of his writing deals directly with encouraging a revival of the arts, and poetry in particular. After the war, beginning with Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, he began to seriously consider the war and its causes, and his conclusions on the nature of and relationship between politics, economics, and the arts would shape his poetic and prose output for the rest of his career, especially in his epic poem The Cantos.…