Book Reviews

Classification

There are various categories, or genres, to which a book is assigned: fiction, poetry, travel and adventure, mystery, children's literature, biography, history, and contemporary thought, among others. A reviewer analyzes a book's conformity to a genre with attention to the author's approaches, methods, materials and coverage, and the outcomes of the book as to information, judgments, or interest value.

For example, in her review of John D'Agata's Halls of Fame, Wendy Rawlings discusses how D'Agata experiments with the form of the essay: "If you're accustomed to reading essays organized around a clearly articulated theme and guided by a single narrative voice that signposts its intentions along the way, D'Agata's methods may frustrate. His essays are disjunctive agglomerations of excerpts from texts of all sorts (literary and otherwise), lists, transcripts from tape-recorded conversations, and, often, long passages of direct quotes from people he meets . . . Reading D'Agata's essays, I felt the strain of someone experimenting with the democratization of a form that, in America, has perhaps been colonized, or at least overpopulated by the ironic and the smug." Rawlings further compares and contrasts D'Agata's methods to those of David Foster Wallace, another contemporary writer of essays.

When analyzing a writer's approach to form, some questions to consider are: How does the book differ from previous works in the same field? Has the author written previous books, in this genre or others? How has the author changed or developed? To what extent does the book being reviewed offer anything new its genre? How might it influence later works in the same genre?

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Introduction