Friday, April 19, 2013

Why I like to know the author before I read

I love my Barnes & Noble Classics copy of The House of Mirth.  It includes a quotes page, a short  introduction of the author, and a page dedicated to the world of Edith Wharton which chronologically lists important world and literary events that occurred during the author's lifetime.

Then there is an introduction by someone other than the author, which I can read after I read the entire novel.  At the back of the book there is a section dedicated to other works that were inspired by this title, such as films; a comment section about the author by other significant individuals, like other authors; and finally, a section of thought-provoking questions for the reader, just like my rhetoric questions from The Well-Educated Mind.

It's a small world!  Edith Wharton was close friends with Henry James and socialized in literary circles with F. Scott Fitzgerald, of whom I am going to read next: The Great Gatsby.

Henry James & Edith Wharton
credit: Surviving Transition
I believe it is beneficial to know something about the author before I read because it does help me understand why the author wrote the story.  My architecture professor in college taught his students to always ask "why" someone does what they do because it is useful in understanding people.

It contributes to the connection of life events that may have influenced the writer.  Sometimes the author may even be recognizable in one of the characters.  And I think it also aids in empathy towards the author and his or her message.  It just makes for a better experience for me, although in some cases it doesn't always work, such as for Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which also was a Barnes & Noble Classics.

It does not have to be a Barnes & Noble Classic since I can do the research on my own.  It is just convenient that they have everything I need right there between the covers.

And with that, I am ready to begin reading my new novel.




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