How to Read a Book

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The author, Joseph Brodsky, of this passage taken from “How to Read a Book” from On Grief and Reason, presents the reader with an enigmatic literature dilemma that individuals face in determining what they should read. This dilemma questions how to manage all the literature material that is presented continuously and how to decide what one should read, as there is limited time of one existence. This passage has an educative, informative, and didactic tone to present this dilemma, as it tries to inform and teach the reader about the controversial enigma about literature, and presenting some solutions to the problem, however ending in the beginning.

From the beginning of the first paragraph he presents two kinds of antithesis ideas. As the first sentence says, “Since we are all moribund, and since reading books is time-consuming, we must devise a system that allows us a semblance of economy.” The first idea is that the task of reading is a time consuming one. The other idea is that as human being, we have limited time of existence, therefore limited time of reading. Here the author is presenting one part of the dilemma, of how to manage what to read, as there is limited time. For the author, in the end this management of reading, is only done because human want to learn, for this reason the need, as the author says, “for concision, condensation fusion – for the work that brings human predicament, in all its diversity, into its sharpest possible focus; in other words, the need for a shortcut.”

The author embraces an extended metaphor for the search of a shortcut, and marks it as “some compass in the ocean of available printed matter”. Nevertheless, Brodsky suggests that the role for the compass is “played by literary criticism, by reviewers”. The author goes on by explaining the trouble of the reviewers` purposes. It says that the reviewer can be someone that does not knows much and is not that smarter that ourselves, a “hack”, someone that has strong bias...
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