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The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the impli The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the implied author," "the postulated reader," and "the unreliable narrator"—have become part of the standard critical lexicon. For this new edition, Wayne C. Booth has written an extensive Afterword in which he clarifies misunderstandings, corrects what he now views as errors, and sets forth his own recent thinking about the rhetoric of fiction. The other new feature is a Supplementary Bibliography, prepared by James Phelan in consultation with the author, which lists the important critical works of the past twenty years—two decades that Booth describes as "the richest in the history of the subject."


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The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the impli The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the implied author," "the postulated reader," and "the unreliable narrator"—have become part of the standard critical lexicon. For this new edition, Wayne C. Booth has written an extensive Afterword in which he clarifies misunderstandings, corrects what he now views as errors, and sets forth his own recent thinking about the rhetoric of fiction. The other new feature is a Supplementary Bibliography, prepared by James Phelan in consultation with the author, which lists the important critical works of the past twenty years—two decades that Booth describes as "the richest in the history of the subject."

30 review for The Rhetoric of Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Narrative Voices: "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth (Original Review, 1981-03-28) When Booth came up with the idea of the "unreliable narrator," he wasn't speaking to writers; he was reminding critics and teachers and readers in general of something every decent writer of fiction has always known: that a narrator is a voice, and a voice is a character, and is still a character - a created fictional person - whether it has a nam If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Narrative Voices: "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth (Original Review, 1981-03-28) When Booth came up with the idea of the "unreliable narrator," he wasn't speaking to writers; he was reminding critics and teachers and readers in general of something every decent writer of fiction has always known: that a narrator is a voice, and a voice is a character, and is still a character - a created fictional person - whether it has a name or is just an apparently omniscient intermediary.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I read this some years ago and it was completely impressive, all about tellin' and showin' and modernism wishing to drive out the author's voice and very not reliable narrators and four kinds of realism and Henry James and how tears and laughter are aesthetically frauds, god damn them to hell. Years later when I thought of this book a little something popped into my head. I saw a scarecrow in a field - peering closer I saw he had my face... and he was grinning glassily and... singing. I could wh I read this some years ago and it was completely impressive, all about tellin' and showin' and modernism wishing to drive out the author's voice and very not reliable narrators and four kinds of realism and Henry James and how tears and laughter are aesthetically frauds, god damn them to hell. Years later when I thought of this book a little something popped into my head. I saw a scarecrow in a field - peering closer I saw he had my face... and he was grinning glassily and... singing. I could while away the hours Re-reading Richard Powers Or maybe Gertrude Stain And my head I'd be scratchin' While my thoughts were busy hatchin' If I only had a brain I'd unravel any riddle of modernistic piddle while commutin' on a train And my thoughts would be dancin' I could be another Franzen! If I only had a brain I could entertain the missus With tales of brave Ulysses Or even James M. Cain I would formulate the pieces Of my throbbing mighty thesis If I only had a brain

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Insofar as the title of Booth's book is The Rhetoric of Fiction, and that "rhetoric" is both the carriage of argument over words and the lack thereof, it is completely appropriate that Booth's book ends with him advancing the argument that his book has been about morality in fiction and acknowledging that most "modern" (his word) fiction is modern precisely in the lack of such morality. Booth's survey of fictional technique is both deep and broad, and is a fantastic spur to read some (and this is Insofar as the title of Booth's book is The Rhetoric of Fiction, and that "rhetoric" is both the carriage of argument over words and the lack thereof, it is completely appropriate that Booth's book ends with him advancing the argument that his book has been about morality in fiction and acknowledging that most "modern" (his word) fiction is modern precisely in the lack of such morality. Booth's survey of fictional technique is both deep and broad, and is a fantastic spur to read some (and this is perhaps a bizarre thing to say, given their great fame, but still nonetheless true, I feel) often overlooked "great writers": Fielding, Sterne, James, and Richardson, his most frequent exemplars. Indeed, in some places, this book is simply a critique of Percy Lubbock's second-hand theories borrowed from James himself, accomplished rather cleverly by looking at James's work. I began to have the idea, reading Booth's long section on James's "reflectors" that spending a year or two running down all of the revisions that the Master made in his "New York edition" would be totally worthwhile. Likewise, I am excited to read Tom Jones. I wouldn't have read it all without reading this book, I don't think. "The author makes his readers. If he makes them badly-- that is, if he simply waits, in all purity, for the occasional reader whose perceptions and norms happen to match his own, then his conception must be lofty indeed if we are to forgive him for his bad craftsmanship. But if he makes them well-- that is, makes them see what they have never seen before, moves them into a new order of perception and experience altogether-- he finds his reward in the peers he has created." is how Booth closes his book. And if one substitutes the concept of having something, anything, of value to articulate behind what one says, some concept that is of value to the author and is worth the trouble of articulation, for Booth's somewhat hazier concept of "morality," then the "modern" writer fits squarely into Booth's rhetoric. If it is no longer the enumeration of a moral code that is at the center of the author's project, then "modern" fiction is no longer so opaque or obtuse as Booth paints it. Quite on its own, this book is valuable as a teaching tool, in making the reader and the writer realize that, whatever may be the aim of a particular piece of fiction, its rhetoric remains essentially the same across the spectrum of possible works and is always part of the piece of fiction itself, contained within the particular work, and more or less clear at the expense of making its argument.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

    Exam reading. Most of you probably don't care to read this. I won't be offended. This is pretty much THE bible for rhetorical literary criticism, which is, I discovered through the course of my PhD coursework, how I actually think of literature but didn't have the language for until recently. (My dissertation is going to be about applying this framework in secondary English. For those of you who care. Which isn't too many of you.) However, this particular text, for my purposes, was only super us Exam reading. Most of you probably don't care to read this. I won't be offended. This is pretty much THE bible for rhetorical literary criticism, which is, I discovered through the course of my PhD coursework, how I actually think of literature but didn't have the language for until recently. (My dissertation is going to be about applying this framework in secondary English. For those of you who care. Which isn't too many of you.) However, this particular text, for my purposes, was only super useful during Part One. The second and third sections were less what I needed, so I admit I skimmed them. What is nice about this second edition is that the author spends quite a bit of time going back over his first edition and amending things he believed to be true then, but sees differently now, responding to feedback/criticism he had gotten in the 20 years since the first publication, etc. Anyway, this book is GIGANTIC, and I read it in one sitting. This is my job for the moment, I realize (I am currently at "the office" aka, the Caribou Coffee near my house) so I'm not looking for any sort of pat on the back, but seriously. 400 pages of academic writing in one day? My brain was fried.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    One of Narratology's most daunting curses is that everyone (me too!) believes they know what it is about, except that they don't. First and third person narration, sure, basic shit, right? Except that NO! Admitting at the same time the limitations of the field (and not pretending it is an exact science) while pretending it be treated with the methodological approach of an actual science, The Rhetoric of Fiction is a veritable gold mine explaining several key concepts in narratology. A must read f One of Narratology's most daunting curses is that everyone (me too!) believes they know what it is about, except that they don't. First and third person narration, sure, basic shit, right? Except that NO! Admitting at the same time the limitations of the field (and not pretending it is an exact science) while pretending it be treated with the methodological approach of an actual science, The Rhetoric of Fiction is a veritable gold mine explaining several key concepts in narratology. A must read for any literature student, Booth's sheer enthusiasm for his topic make this a great read for any dedicated reader whatsoever. Although occasionally a bit verbose, it's also one of those rare theoretical texts that is ACTUALLY FUCKING UNDERSTANDABLE, like, quite easily. Gee, Mr. Booth, thanks.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Arnett

    Just when you think Booth isn't going to present any anecdotes about his friend in his youth beating off to the orgy scenes in Brave New World BAM!--there it is--page 389.

  7. 5 out of 5

    C.E. Crowder

    I picked up and read "Rhetoric" from the perspective of an author-wannabe, so my copy is now scored with underlines and margin notes that will enable me to keep my interpretations and its key points straight when I browse through it later for reference. It goes beyond grammer/syntax advice, beyond plot/character/theme construction, to explore what actually makes a good novel a good novel. I'm not taking away any hard and fast lessons - Mr. Booth largely dispenses with the possibility of such thi I picked up and read "Rhetoric" from the perspective of an author-wannabe, so my copy is now scored with underlines and margin notes that will enable me to keep my interpretations and its key points straight when I browse through it later for reference. It goes beyond grammer/syntax advice, beyond plot/character/theme construction, to explore what actually makes a good novel a good novel. I'm not taking away any hard and fast lessons - Mr. Booth largely dispenses with the possibility of such things - but I have now been made witness to many enlightening examples. It makes me interested in pursuing works I previously had no desire to read (e.g. Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones, Madame Bovary, possibly Ulysses and the works of Henry James and Graham Greene, among a few others) because I'm better positioned to appreciate the telling of these tales, not just the tales themselves. I can see "Rhetoric" being a worthwhile read for anyone who would like to acquire a similar appreciation. Someone wiser than me summarized this book's thesis as "all narrative is rhetoric". An author has tangible presence in his/her fiction novel, however well disguised or aloof he/she strives to be (and many have tried very hard, depending on changing trends in critcism of how obvious / how much obvious presence is judged acceptable). There is a second self thus produced by the author, here called the 'implied author', in the course of writing a fiction piece, that suggests a personality who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. This implied author is tantamount to being a character in the story, and should not be equated with the actual author. The actual author needs to be aware of this implied presence he/she is creating and its effect on how the reader perceives and reads the story. A good author, writing a good novel, will be aware of and use this presence to his/her advantage by being fully aware of what he/she is making a case for and employ good rhetoric accordingly. I'm led to wonder, how much of what I would have called an author's style is more correctly attributed as characteristics of this "implied author" concept? I think my next step should be to find a book that takes what Mr. Booth produced here and explores that question. I'd like to obtain a firmer understanding of what is meant by "style" in the context of this book's thesis. I've found some excellent essays by horror/sf author Dan Simmons on his web site, but more exploration is required.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexey

    I think my mark is not fair to the book - it gives a lot of work to the brain and is really enlightening. But I certainly had problems with following author's logic and his examples often overbearingly detailed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    H

    A systematic and even-handed study for which I rate him up there with Bakhtin. Convergence of critical analysis and craftsmanship in the modern novel, particularly in and after Henry James. If one were to be so impudent as to simplify this book into any takeaway message, it is that one must take the middle way without generalizations, that we must remember the tautological fact: "If you do such-and-such badly, it will be bad." Not that any method or technique is true or false, but that it must b A systematic and even-handed study for which I rate him up there with Bakhtin. Convergence of critical analysis and craftsmanship in the modern novel, particularly in and after Henry James. If one were to be so impudent as to simplify this book into any takeaway message, it is that one must take the middle way without generalizations, that we must remember the tautological fact: "If you do such-and-such badly, it will be bad." Not that any method or technique is true or false, but that it must be true in the context of its work. In apologizing for the pedantry of interpretation in his last section, he quotes from Saul Bellow's "Deep Readers of the World, Beware!" (1959): "Perhaps the deepest readers are those who are least sure of themselves. An even more disturbing suspicion is that they prefer meaning to feeling." His approach to Portrait of the Artist is marvelous and his offhand summary of Joyce's epiphany is the best I've read: "When, in his earliest years, he recorded his brief epiphanies--those bits of dialogue or description that were supposed to reveal the inner reality of things--there was always an implied identification of the recorder's norms and the reader's; both were spectators at the revealing moment, both shared iin the vision of one moment of truth. Though some of the epiphanies are funny, some sad, and some mixed, the basic effect is always the same: an overwhelming sense--when they succeed--of what Joyce liked to call the "incarnation": Artistic Meaning has come to live in the world's body. The Poet has done his work." (331) The bibliography alone is an enormous resource.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anjani

    Wayne Booth first described the "unreliable narrator": "An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised.[1] The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction.[2] This narrative mode is one that can be developed by an author for a number of reasons, usually to deceive the reader or audience.[1] Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreli Wayne Booth first described the "unreliable narrator": "An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised.[1] The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction.[2] This narrative mode is one that can be developed by an author for a number of reasons, usually to deceive the reader or audience.[1] Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreliable. The nature of the narrator is sometimes immediately clear. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to his or her unreliability. A more dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story's end. This twist ending forces readers to reconsider their point of view and experience of the story. In some cases the narrator's unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving readers to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted. Historical novels, speculative fiction, and clearly delineated dream sequences are generally not considered instances of unreliable narration, even though they describe events that did not or could not happen." Wikipedia

  11. 5 out of 5

    Frankie

    It's a daunting book. Readable certainly and not too pretentious, but daunting in its comprehensive nature. The technical jargon in places doesn't pause to explain its complexities. It helped me to look up words from time to time, beginning with the literal definition of rhetoric. If you can brave the first few chapters, though, your understanding will kick in as the more applicable points "build out" to explain themselves. I found myself faltering at some headings, but by paragraph's end and wi It's a daunting book. Readable certainly and not too pretentious, but daunting in its comprehensive nature. The technical jargon in places doesn't pause to explain its complexities. It helped me to look up words from time to time, beginning with the literal definition of rhetoric. If you can brave the first few chapters, though, your understanding will kick in as the more applicable points "build out" to explain themselves. I found myself faltering at some headings, but by paragraph's end and with examples always provided, I usually understood them fairly well. Booth writes each chapter as if it were a thesis. An aspect I enjoy is Booth's embrace and respect of the author's relationship with his work. One image I liked is Booth's concept that an implied author presents himself somewhat differently than who he may be. "A great work establishes the 'sincerity' of its implied author, regardless of how grossly the man who created that author may belie in his other forms of conduct the values embodied in his work. For all we know, the only sincere moments of his life may have been lived as he wrote his novel." (page 75) Booth uses certain works as repeated examples of device, and I especially enjoyed his analyses of types of narration. His examples taken from James' The Turn of the Screw especially delighted me, as I've recently read A Casebook on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, 2nd Ed.. I also enjoyed his references to Dostoevsky's works, as I'm an inveterate fan of those as well. His other over a hundred references, from Homer to Beckett, were sufficiently explained as to convey the meaning of their use. No one should be expected to have read them, but I may try myself to eventually read the best examples. Booth showed particular wit. A footnote on page 301 supports mention of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake: "...I could no doubt leave some readers convinced that I have read Finnegan's Wake. But I must confess that I have not; I do read in it, from time to time, with great delight until boredom sets in. Will someone, by the way, someone who has read this unreadable work, tell me whether that first "m" in the first 'brimgem' is a typographical error? You don't know? Or care? We are in trouble, you and I." Booth would probably excuse this footnote for its ironic rhetoric. It does make me laugh. The only issue I take with this classic of literary theory is the lengthy Afterword. The original edition was published in 1961. To this 2nd edition in 1983, Booth added a strange chapter filled with vague recantations, some valid but unnecessary. I feel that it takes much of the wind out of his original's bright conclusion. It feels forced, insincere and too apologetic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    This is a how-to-write book. Despite the clever disguise as a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes -- and the disguise is so thorough that it actually is a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes. Anyway, it's about how writers actually do get readers to view the characters and circumstances the way they want them to. How we maintain interest in the story. Whether some demands about novels really don't make sense as shown by the way that many n This is a how-to-write book. Despite the clever disguise as a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes -- and the disguise is so thorough that it actually is a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes. Anyway, it's about how writers actually do get readers to view the characters and circumstances the way they want them to. How we maintain interest in the story. Whether some demands about novels really don't make sense as shown by the way that many novel rely on the "faults" to work. He touches on techniques from commentary from omniscient narrators to judicious adjectives and discusses how techniques -- even the modern, popular ones -- have their limitations as well as their uses. He even makes sense when talking about how writers write. Most literary critics who aren't fiction writers on the side talk about how writers write and reveal that they will never, ever, ever manage to write fiction. In his afterword (to the second edition) he says he once had a lively discussion with a class of fourth graders on the rhetoric of fiction. Which is to say that he asked, "How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?" and they were off. This treats the matter in somewhat more complex manner -- but it touches on that, too.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anna Hiller

    Admittedly, I am only about 30 pages into the book, and I realize that the original edition was written in 1961, but I find myself balking at the notion of "the author's voice" (I guess I've read too much Barthes) and also at the preponderance of the male pronoun when it comes to discussing the author (too much feminist theory). But when I take all of my poststructuralist leanings away, I find that this book will be eventually very useful for teaching formal approaches to fiction, as its tone, s Admittedly, I am only about 30 pages into the book, and I realize that the original edition was written in 1961, but I find myself balking at the notion of "the author's voice" (I guess I've read too much Barthes) and also at the preponderance of the male pronoun when it comes to discussing the author (too much feminist theory). But when I take all of my poststructuralist leanings away, I find that this book will be eventually very useful for teaching formal approaches to fiction, as its tone, structure, and analytical approach are clear and crisp, and not laden with the sometimes useless questioning and undermining of the text that sometimes complicates the usefulness of later literary theory. This appears to me so far to be the apex of "literary criticism" as opposed to theory, and as a closet structuralist, I am enjoying it so far.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chakib Miraoui

    I substituted this for a fiction study that I no longer could access because my college library closes in the time of Coronavirus. I am glad for having picked this up. I wanted a true advanced study of fiction, and got the challenge of this decade. Booth reads like a volume of a scholarly journal. Heavily footnoted, heavily illustrated, treatments of every possible question of fictional rhetoric is found here, finely presented. Artistic purity, author's voice, and impersonal narrative are the thr I substituted this for a fiction study that I no longer could access because my college library closes in the time of Coronavirus. I am glad for having picked this up. I wanted a true advanced study of fiction, and got the challenge of this decade. Booth reads like a volume of a scholarly journal. Heavily footnoted, heavily illustrated, treatments of every possible question of fictional rhetoric is found here, finely presented. Artistic purity, author's voice, and impersonal narrative are the three chapters graciously composing this book. Three (3) stars, first for significance, second for soundness, third for relevance.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    If you want to know how to read a novel, read this book. I never thought there was anything substantial to "reader response theory," but Booth's criticism is a perfect balance of measuring the concrete techniques used by an author with the subejective responses they produce. This book will give you the tools you need to have a richer and deeper reading of any novel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    As usual, Booth is both perceptive and perplexing. I think much of what he says of authorship can't be denied. On the other hand, I DON'T think he is right about many things, V Woolf for once. It seems that he always sees so clearly and craves detachment

  17. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A classic in literary criticism; anyone interested in ways of reading literature should read this through.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Owen

    Seems so fundamental to understanding the intellectual, moral, and emotional aspects of distance, I'm surprised it's not taught more often at the undergraduate level.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bisso

    A great meta-novel book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Shilling

    Raises lots of deeply fascinating and complicated questions about narrative shaping. Reading a book like this proves that there is no such thing as "realism" in literature.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Wayne C. Booth is always a pleasure to read; plenty of worthy insights, here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen Woods

    This was a tough read but did give insight into the way a critic looks at fiction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Keehr

    Great book. He dissects great books to show how the author achieves his various effects.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bill FromPA

    I have rather mixed feelings about literary criticism. These writers are far more credentialed and experienced than I am in reading and understanding literature, yet I end up more often than not thinking that they're doing it wrong. It would seem pretty obvious from the weight of expertise that I must be the one who's misguided, but somehow I seldom end up being convinced to change my mind. So it was with Wayne C. Booth and The Rhetoric of Fiction, as described below. Part I: Artistic Purity and I have rather mixed feelings about literary criticism. These writers are far more credentialed and experienced than I am in reading and understanding literature, yet I end up more often than not thinking that they're doing it wrong. It would seem pretty obvious from the weight of expertise that I must be the one who's misguided, but somehow I seldom end up being convinced to change my mind. So it was with Wayne C. Booth and The Rhetoric of Fiction, as described below. Part I: Artistic Purity and the Rhetoric of Fiction - Chapters 1 - 6. These consist mostly of what Booth calls in his afterword, "attacks on fashions at the time". For the most part, I didn't think this section was needed; he goes to some lengths to refute such sweeping rules as "all novels should be realistic", "all narrative should be objective", "true art ignores the audience". These are all pretty silly as blanket statements and seem to me hardly worth noticing let alone elaborately refuting. In at least one case, I found his argument misapplied. In refuting "true art ignores the audience" he cites a long section of A Passage to India, claiming that Forster inserted the passage in order to allow the reader to fully understand the relationship between Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Moore. What the cited passage actually does, exquisitely, is demonstrate how "showing is better than telling", the first rule Booth tried to refute in chapter 1! Part II: The Author's Voice in Fiction - Chapters 7 - 9. Booth analyses narrative strategies in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and Emma. The author seems particularly at home with these authors whose voices intrude, to a greater or lesser extent, into the stories they are telling. Note that here Booth is speaking of what he calls the "implied author", that is to say the fictional or semi-fictionalized person who speaks to the reader as the author, for example, in the case of Tristram Shandy, Shandy himself and not Sterne. The one section I could disagree with in this part of the book was "Manipulating Mood" in Chapter 7. Booth talks about the opening of Poe's "The Premature Burial" and accuses the author of "attempting to put us in a frame of mind before the story begins ... 'Get ready to shudder,' he seems to say". This is all true, but Booth would lead us to believe that this undercuts the mood of the story itself by over-anticipating it. However, what follows Poe's dire introduction is actually a comic vignette in which the narrator, awakening in a confused state of mind in an unfamiliar and cramped bunk mistakenly believes himself to be buried alive. The story may be faulty (I think the comedy of the denouement does not sufficiently relieve the tension and horror of the opening), but it is not because the opening mood setting is anticlimactic. Part III: Impersonal Narration. Chapters 10 - 13. Here Booth addresses 'objective' and 'unreliable' narrators. This discussion was the main reason I decided to read this book. I was hoping it would answer questions such as, "How does an author convey irony?" and "How is the reader informed that an author means the opposite of what his character says?" These questions were partly answered, but, mainly because of the discussion of The Turn of the Screw, I felt that, as a reader, Booth seemed less likely than I to suspect, and possibly detect, irony and authorial mis-direction. Chapter 10. The classification of Jason Compson in The Sound and the Fury as an "less sympathetic protagonist" is accurate, but Booth does not examine how, for the first-time reader, Faulkner makes Jason a very sympathetic protagonist, at least initially. Jason's narrative comes third in the novel, after the highly confusing and disorienting narratives of Benjamin and Quentin. Jason's simple declarative sentences and clear meanings offer the novel's first taste of a standard narration style, and will be embraced by many readers for its forthrightness and familiar form. Chapter 11. Here we come to the heart of my disagreement with Booth, one so fundamental that it leads me to question his judgment on the many novels and stories he discusses which I haven't read. Booth is certain that Henry James intended the governess-narrator of The Turn of the Screw to be a reliable narrator, telling a story of an encounter with actual ghosts. He suggests that those who see the governess as unreliable, "a neurotic case of sex repression", are misreading the story, but suggests that James probably could have made the case for her reliability a bit clearer than he did. For me the primary experience of this novella was one of irresolvable ambiguity; it seemed that the two interpretations: a story of actual ghosts or a tale told by a deluded, hallucinating narrator were balanced on a knife edge and that this must have been James’ intention, indeed probably the primary aesthetic effect he wished to achieve. Chapter 11. The discussion of The Turn of the Screw is followed by a helpful and informative section which contrasts the mastery of irony in Swift's "A Modest Proposal" with that in Defoe's "The Shortest Way with Dissenters". The last was taken by many contemporary readers as a seriously meant Tory pamphlet, due, according to Booth, to insufficient internal clues as to its satiric intent. One is inevitably reminded how many satirical stories posted to the web are picked up as legitimate news by those unable to detect the often far from subtly embedded ironic intentions. Chapter 11. Booth considers that James Joyce has given the reader insufficient clues on how to react to Stephen Dedalus' words and actions in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He seems to think that Joyce wanted the reader to have the same reactions to Stephen as he would in reading an earlier version of the novel, posthumously published as Stephen Hero, where the narration is more traditional and frequently implies judgment, favorable and unfavorable, about the protagonist's behavior. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Booth that Joyce accepted, even, I would claim, embraced, the open-ended reader reaction that resulted from the more objective style of the final novel. A strange sequel to the discussion of Portrait occurs in the next chapter where Booth discusses Henry James story "The Liar" at length. He tells how the intended effect of the story changed completely from the author's original idea, detailed in his notebooks, as James developed the voice of the story's narrator. In a reversal on his stance with Joyce's Stephen, Booth takes issue with readers who see "The Liar" as embodying James' original conception. Afterword to the Second Edition. An interesting and informative commentary by the author written 21 years after the first edition. He is able to review and address some of the issues raised by readers. He takes back a few things (none of which include those mentioned above), expands on others, and mentions a few significant critical developments that have occurred in the interim.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert Day

    Ch01 - Showing & Telling. In essence, the author cannot be anything but present in his story and most choose which things must be told so that a story can be shaped. Then, if time and space permit, showing can take place too. Ch02 - Hard work, but rewarding. This chapter was about the ins and outs of making a story realistic. Not as easy as it sounds. Ch03 - In which the virtues of objectivity and subjectivity in a writer are discussed. Much is said. In conclusion - love and hate can be used in th Ch01 - Showing & Telling. In essence, the author cannot be anything but present in his story and most choose which things must be told so that a story can be shaped. Then, if time and space permit, showing can take place too. Ch02 - Hard work, but rewarding. This chapter was about the ins and outs of making a story realistic. Not as easy as it sounds. Ch03 - In which the virtues of objectivity and subjectivity in a writer are discussed. Much is said. In conclusion - love and hate can be used in the service of a good novel and, if technique is applied well, it matters not much whether it be the author's subjective or the author's objective love/hate that is used. Ch04 - Debated whether the author should (or could) portray objects (events, people, actions, scenes, candles) as they really are and leave the reader to invoke the rest, or whether a writer should use the rhetorical devices (comment, imagery, description, telling, showing) at his disposal to heighten the effect of the story or to explain to the reader what's what. Verdict: use rhetoric as appropriate. Ch05 - should readers agree with the writer in terms of their views on the rightness of what is being said in a novel? Yes, if they are to enjoy the novel. If not, they will not enjoy it as much, if at all. Ch06 - I find that I know that there are several methods of narration, but no-one knows which I should use but me, and then only through a glass darkly. Ch07 - Treated us to a discussion of the merits of authorial intrusion in a novel by means of commentary designed to affect various elements if the work. There are many types of intrusion and many effects to be made. Whether an intrusion is justified or not seems, at the end, to depend on whether the writer (or narrator) and the reader become closer as a result. Ch08 - Focuses on Tom Jones (not the singer) and Tristram Shandy as exemplars of books where authorial intrusion (or commentary as it's called here) is done well. Interesting read. Love Tristram Shandy. Need to read Tom Jones. Ch09 - Jane Austen. Emma. Yawn. perhaps I could read it? Or perhaps not. Ch10 - Told me little. I think it was trying to tell me about the relative merits to the novel of authors who do not interfere in them by writing commentaries, but I arrive at the end none the wiser as to whether to insert comments or whether to be silent. I guess (but then, doesn't it always) that it depends. Ch11 - About the pitfalls of writing an impersonal narrator (one who does not insert, in his writing, comments on his writing) using James Joyce's Portrait of a Young Man and an earlier draft of the same work that did have comments (Stephen, Hero) as an example. Verdict: the comments add lucidity and information for those who want such things. Ch12 - Does its damned to persuade me that Henry James is not as much of a genius as he is made out to be because he isn't clear himself how his stories should turn out (on the basis of the notes he made about the writing process). At least, I think that's what this chapter is about. To be honest, much of it either went over my head or beneath my interest. Ah, the price of Impersonal Narration. Ch13 - The morality of Fiction means that the author has an obligation, if he is narrating from inside the head of a character (it has been shown that this method is influential), to promote morally sound ideas because if he doesn't then he runs the risk of disturbing people in a negative way by making it seem that 'bad' ways of thinking, speaking and acting are being advocated. And at the end, we get a very entertaining bibliography. Seriously.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lina Csillag

    Here lies some spoilers - wish I knew before I started. It is definitely best fit for a student of litterature, or an aspiring author, but nonetheless, there is some common ground with film fiction regarding the communication between author/director and reader/audience. It's most exciting parts, in my opinion, are the analysis of the different kinds of narrators, and the relation between narrator and author - something that's definitely handy knowledge to carry around and have in the back of my Here lies some spoilers - wish I knew before I started. It is definitely best fit for a student of litterature, or an aspiring author, but nonetheless, there is some common ground with film fiction regarding the communication between author/director and reader/audience. It's most exciting parts, in my opinion, are the analysis of the different kinds of narrators, and the relation between narrator and author - something that's definitely handy knowledge to carry around and have in the back of my mind creating my films.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    An excellent and in depth look at rhetoric and aesthetics and narrators and authors and how stories get told. It's also a crash course in the classics. If you want to read great books, this will point you in the right direction. I saw it recommended by Gerald Murnane and bought it as a present for my 30th birthday last year. It's a gigantic book too although not in the same size and weight category of Schmidt's The Novel. I should take it back to Aus as well but am trying to justify to myself th An excellent and in depth look at rhetoric and aesthetics and narrators and authors and how stories get told. It's also a crash course in the classics. If you want to read great books, this will point you in the right direction. I saw it recommended by Gerald Murnane and bought it as a present for my 30th birthday last year. It's a gigantic book too although not in the same size and weight category of Schmidt's The Novel. I should take it back to Aus as well but am trying to justify to myself that it will serve me better to reread it and use it as a book recommender.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Georgia Butler

    I've been reading this book, in parts, for years and have finally (I think) tied all the parts together. As a writer, I find Booth's analyses of the narrative voice intriguing, though perhaps at times over explained. A side benefit to this book is its bibliography of literature, critical commentary of which has opened my eyes to the merits of books I might never has sought out, for instance, Tristram Shanty (now on my "to read" list).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Alvarez

    No wonder this book is considered a classic in its field. Throughout its 500+ pages of thorough analysis of narrative voice and the implications of each choice an author makes Wayne Booth's own voice is charming and loveable (if at times persnickety). My greatest takeaway here is to read a lot more Henry James and Flaubert!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Florin Pitea

    An excellent theoretical work concerning points of view in fiction and literary techniques. Recommended especially to aspiring writers.

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