Whoosh! There Goes the Media Don ; LITERARY CRITICISM How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland PROFILE Pounds 9.99 Pounds 9.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Taylor, Dj, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Sifting through the pile of paperbacks on the study floor the other day, I turned up the first of John Sutherland's books that I ever bought. Issued by the University of London's Athlone Press in 1978, expensively priced and awash with lightly worn learning, Fiction and the Fiction Industry offered a vigorous analysis of the business of publishing novels back in the days of IMF crises and Callaghan-era austerity. Its author - plain "JA Sutherland" then, Reader in English at UCL - was at this point in his career known to a handful of cognoscenti for an exceptionally good book about Thackeray's working methods and had never been anywhere near the columns of the Guardian newspaper.
Twenty-eight years later, How to Read a Novel A User's Guide addresses many of the same topics. Here consanguinity ends, for the new work, you can't help feeling, is pitched at a very different audience. Dinkily got up, a snip at pounds 9.99, unthreateningly arranged in bite-sized chapters with a larksome puff from "critic and literary guide" John Sutherland on the back jacket, its target constituency would seem to be the kind of people who, while necessarily au fait with the idea of books, could do with a tad more professional expertise to light their path. This impression is confirmed by the author-biog which mentions Sutherland's "bestselling trilogy of literary puzzles and mysteries" while remaining ominously silent about his definitive biography of Mrs Humphry Ward.
And nothing wrong with that, it should hastily be added. For a six-page low-down on intertextuality, a brief excursion through "Famous First Words", a 10-paragraph - I counted them - disquisition on literary prizes, I can't think of anyone better qualified, anyone with quite the same combination of pizzazz, technical know-how and sheer enthusiasm as Professor Sutherland here. That said, for any PhD student hot on the trajectory of the media don, that tantalising modern presence simultaneously at large in the pages of Victorian Studies and the London Review of Books, this is an arte-fact of huge symbolical import.
In the old days, faced with even the thorniest Victorian three- decker or publishing conundrum, Sutherland used to glide through his material. Now, he practically surfs. The origins of the detective novel? There they go. The protocols of copyright? Whoosh. The only exceptions to this …
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Publication information: Article title: Whoosh! There Goes the Media Don ; LITERARY CRITICISM How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland PROFILE Pounds 9.99 Pounds 9.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897. Contributors: Taylor, Dj - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: August 2, 2006. Page number: 23. © 2009 The Independent on Sunday. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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