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I recommend this book to anyone studying literature and\or writing. Easy to follow and read and hardly ‘academic’ as some reviewers have described its style but that doesn’t take away from its intellectual fruit. Highly recommended.
I think the author could have added a few more points, but all in all it was an extraordinarily detailed explanation of how some elements of subtext can be used or identified. As a non-native speaker I had some trouble getting through the text as the author appeared to be very selective in his phrases and expressions. But even though I had to reread a few passages for comprehension I was fascinated by the content. I'm a huge fan of subtext when reading as well as when writing. It challenges the mind. So naturally I loved this book.
I bought this book hoping it would teach me how to infuse my writing with subtext. Instead, I was left feeling that perhaps subtext is beyond my reach, that I'm no Dostoyesvsky or Checkov, that this Charles Baxter is 'too clever' for me. Intellectual prowess per se. Nothing wrong with it if that's what one is after, but the "The art of" part of the title lead me to believe I was about to learn, well... the art of subtext. I didn't. I just got Baxter's insights on some literary works.
I literally found nothing in the book beyond self indulgent rants against the middle class as if it is some sort of disease. That good writers do only as they want and never lie. Well here is my - I am not going to ever lie so as to be true to myself (authors advice in the book) You can barely get pass his self obligatory pat on the back of how being a hard working middle class writer or even person makes you some kind of bad person, that only those of a hedonistic and histrionic nature are true artist. No thank you for the drivel which taught me nothing other than I will avoid any book ever written by this person. His self importance was not informative other than to say how self important he was.
As an aspiring writer I really wanted to like this book. It does contain a few interesting ideas and turns of phrase, but overall I found it impenetrable and pretentious. The author loves describing things as "ironic", stating this is particularly a stance in contemporary fiction. I could not follow nor appreciate the point. And, as others have said, the text often reads as almost a stream of consciousness, with it very unclear how to connect the points being made. The tone borders on condescending all too often also.
Mr. Baxter I see is the editor of "The Art Of..." series. I have the one about Time - I shall have to consider it in this light and see if there are any similarities.
Very nice introduction and explanation of the idea and practice of the art of subtext in narratives. Author has an app for and friendly tone. I enjoyed the clear instruction on how to spot it in stories as well as some ideas on how one might about creating depth when writing. The examples given ranged from authors such as Dostoevsky, Fitzgerald, and Lorrie Moore, to name a few.
As a writer, I am always looking for books on craft in an attempt to hone my own techniques of craft. The Art of Subtext sounded intriguing. Subtext has always been an anomaly to me, something I assumed came during literary reviews and analysis, not for the author directly but, rather, from the reader and his or her own baggage.
Baxter has proven to me the author does have some responsibility in adding subtext of his own through dialogue, gesture, and facial expressions. That said, Baxter's analysis of the works referenced, and the subtext implicit in those works, was well over my head.
I feel I need to return to this book again, with referenced materials in hand, to fully understand Baxter's interpretations of the subtext within these stories.
Admittedly, I am not a "literary" author h it more of a commercial author. Perhaps I should be reading books withdrew meaning, or, perhaps, sometimes a frown is just a frown.