How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Italics – highlighted material
Bolded – personal comments
Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not)
You'd just watched a knight have a not very suitable encounter with his nemesis.
In other words, a quest just happened.
...of what does it consist? A knight, a dangerous road, a Holy Grail (whatever one of those may be), at
least one dragon, one evil knight, one princess.
The quest consists of five things: (a) a quester, (b) a place to go, (c) a stated reason to go there, (d)
challenges and trials en route, and (e) a real reason to go there.
The real reason for a quest
involves the stated reason. In fact, more often than not, the quester
fails at the stated task.
..They go because of the stated task, mistakenly believing that it is their real
..their quest is educational.
The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge.
questers are so often young, inexperienced,immature, sheltered.
“Always” and “never” are not words that have much meaning in literary study.
It's the same way in
Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion
Whenever people eat or drink together, it's communion.
In the real world,breaking bread together is an act of sharing and peace, since if you're breaking
bread you're not breaking heads.
..writing a meal scene is so difficult, and so inherently uninteresting,
that there needs to be some compelling reason to include one in the story.
So whenever an author
includes a meal scene, pay attention—it's a flag to something important that is about to happen.
The only reason to give a character a serious hang-up is to give him the chance to get over it. He may
fail, but he gets the chance.
If a well-run meal or snack portends good things for community and understanding, then the failed
meal stands as a bad sign.
The thing we share is our death.
..Next to our mortality, which comes to great and small equally, all the
differences in our lives are mere surface details.
Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires
A nasty old man, attractive but evil, violates young women, leaves his mark on them, steals their
innocence—and coincidentally their “usefulness” (if you think “marriageability,” you'll be about
right) to young men—and leaves them helpless followers in his sin.
In fact, we might conclude it has something to do with sex.
Evil has had to do with sex since the serpent seduced Eve.
...But it's also about things other than literal vampirism: selfishness, exploitation, a refusal to respect
the autonomy of other people, just for starters.
Most literary ghosts—the kind that occur in stories of lasting interest—have to do with things beyond