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I feel more than a little sheepish admitting this in here, but the last two books I've been reading have caused me to consider locating the Cliff Notes for those titles. And this, fellow bibliophiles, comes from a gal who most often skips any preface or foreword she finds in the edition of whatever book she takes up to read. I figure I am a sophisticated enough reader that I don't need someone holding my hand and guiding me along through the story, metaphorically speaking. But sometimes literature can get awfully psychiatric . . . . .
On my Bulletin Board, I remarked about my bewilderment about these two books, Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, and Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I hope some of you will have some pungent comments about this reader's stumbling block. Do the Notes really clarify things, or just tell the student one way of interpreting what the author wrote (or what the critic believes the author intended by what he/she wrote)?
Last Edited on: 3/6/13 6:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Cliff Notes (and Spark Notes) can be invaluable in helping a reader better appreciate a book. After all, clarity is key!
I've primarily used them when teaching a particular novel or play. I recommend consulting these guides after reading the entire book you're focusing on: Cliff/Spark Notes contain way too many spoilers!
As for whether or not the summaries are biased, I haven't found that to be the case. (Of course, if I've interpreted something a certain way, I am rarely swayed to follow another's point of view.)
Therefore, I would not hesitate to consult this type of guide book. I don't always catch everything I should when I read. (And that's a reason I love book discussion groups--I learn so much!)
Yes, Rose, I fully agree with your view that the time to consult the Notes is AFTER having read the novel. I'm reading them now, and I believe it is clarifying things
for me a lot. One thing that was an impediment of sorts to reading The Idiot was keeping the characters' names straight, at least in the early part of the novel.
(When my husband read War and Peace, he made a chart of the characters and their names/nicknames/designations, and kept it tucked in the book.) I'm curious
to know about your teaching---what age are the students, in what kind of class in what kind of institution, etc.? I really liked the two World Lit classes I took in the
late eighties at a university not too far from my home. The seating arrangement for the discussions of the books we read was a "U" around three sides of the class-
room, with the professor occupying the "open" part of the "U". Even then (in the 80s) there were students who didn't get the reading done, for the class meetings.
But there were mitigating circumstances, Rose. It was a "commuter college" (the students did not live on campus, and the commutes were pretty long for some of
them), and a lot of the students had jobs in addition to fairly heavy academic loads, and some of the students had spouses and children, too. They persisted in
trying to maintain such a life style in spite of being advised, upon enrolling, that out of three things, a job, a social life, and/or an academic career, one could only