Close Reading

I am a book addict and the genre matters not as long as the prose sings to me. Vocationally I am also a Systems Engineer and avocationally a Book Reviewer. In the early days I felt like I had been skimming too much and not really getting much out of my reading. Then came Close Reading and Book Reviewing. And nothing was ever the same.

What it means to me to be a critic/reviewer? For a lot of readers, a “reviewer” or “critic” is an embittered failed novelist or worse, a barely restrained serial rapist. Book critics may take the form of a dilettante, theorist, essayist, or even historian, but almost never reviewers, who sometimes lack the distancing from the text required by the demands of academia synthesis.

One of the reasons I love writing book critique is because it allows me the pleasure of close reading. Invariably this leads to question: “Why do you think the writer did that?” The ‘that’ could be a technique, a literary device, a plot point or some clever thing (like the iambic pentameter in Shakespeare or the visual cues R.J. Ellory uses so masterfully).

My readings, education-wise, lie in works more classic: Celan, Hölderlin, Rilke, Shakespeare, Brecht, and the like.  Hence, the reviews on this blog exist on a space-time continuum with higher expectations than the latest thriller story.  There needs to be some substance to the material and quality to the writing if it is to be engaged with, entertainment not always sufficient to truly enjoy a book. Close Reading is the answer to reading with gusto. Close reading is a wonderful technique to tell us how the writers use language for effect. It’s all about grabbing our attention. They just wrap it up in a nice little phrase that make us think before they answer the questions they always answer.

It can also be noted that some of the reviews I usually write also have a biographical component. It is intentional. Some of the books, plays, movies, and operas reviewed here cannot be disassociated from my own personal history. Thus the reviews reflect this fact. I only contemplate reviewing when it ties with my own personal history. I'm just not interested in reading impersonal and synopsis-like reviews. The fun of it is our personal relationship with a certain book, play, movie, or opera. Why did matter in that particular junction in time? Why did I hate it so much? Why should I persevere reading a certain author? 

What I always look for in a review is a visceral take on a particular creation. My favourite take on this is our ability to create a particular timeline with one particular theme, be it a book, a play, a movie, or a opera .

This blog is about my journey using Close Reading techniques.

Read on.

NB: As the readers of my reviews have probably noticed I don’t do synopsis. I review to share a purely visceral reaction to stuff I’ve read (and sometimes seen – theatre plays, etc) and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask myself after applying Close Reading techniques to something I’ve just experienced. For book synopsis look elsewhere.


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