To the point, I've been reading a bunch of nonfiction lately. Partly for work. Partly for fun. And I don't say that lightly. I'm not in the habit of reading nonfiction for fun. If I'm looking for fun and can't get to the mini-golf course, I go in for the fiction reading. Which goes to show these must be some extra-superb books, right?
I picked it up and read the last chapter first because it was about the United States and how when soccer became a popular children's recreation in the seventies, it was basically a hippie construction, an extension of the sixties, a contrast to the militarism of Pee-Wee football and the competitiveness of Little League baseball and was viewed as anti-American. Thus, red states and blue states can be identified by how many people let their kids play soccer. Fun, right?
Fascinated, I returned to the first chapter which explains how throughout the nineties a man gained Serbian national acclaim due to his leading an army of soccer hooligans in defense of Slobadon Milosovic. Apparently, it's common practice for a soccer club in Europe to recruit and hire groups of fans to be the team's official hooligans. And apparently, in what started as Yugoslavia, these hooligans did more than just taunt fans of the other team. One psycho criminal was given charge of the Red Star fans and led them to commit atrocities against Muslims and Croatians during their war. After reading this, I stifled my innocent giggle at being labeled "Unamerican" because I play soccer. I'm a little embarrassed for my sport. But certainly fascinated by this book.
What was most interesting to me was something I realized early on in my reading. Jacobs formats his book alphabetically, giving his own versions of a chosen few encyclopedia entries while incorporating a memoir of his experience. He cleverly uses a current encyclopedia entry to be able to tell a story about what is going on in his life at the time he read it. For instance, he uses the entry on "vital fluid" to tell his story about going on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and crapping out at 1,000 dollars. So, basically, Jacobs spent his days reading, then writing about what he read as he made progress. Then it became a bestselling book. And I just kept thinking. I read. I write. Where's my bestselling book?
Anyone who loves reading should read these books. Foster shows you what you should be looking for to help you construct a deeper meaning from a text. He explains why an author might make certain decisions and use certain language. He explains the necessity of understanding allusions and symbols and choices of point of view and story structure.
I've studied and taught literature for most of my adult life, and this is the best, most succinct, most clear and easy to comprehend text I've read on the subject. I find it so enlightening, I've decided this is the new summer reading for my IB Literature class. The kids will love it.
The books show you how to be a better reader, but I've tried to incorporate some of the ideas into my own writing. A character totem here, another symbol there. Foster will have to use author Brent Wescott as a brilliant example in his next book, right?