Review: A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

‘Question: What is the difference between a dialect and a language?
Answer: A language is a dialect with an army behind it.’

cover36182-medium‘This “little history” takes on a very big subject: the glorious span of literature from Greek myth to graphic novels, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter. […] Sutherland introduces great classics in his own irresistible way, enlivening his offerings with humor as well as learning: Beowulf, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, the Romantics, Dickens, Moby DickThe Waste Land, Woolf, 1984, and dozens of others. He adds to these a less-expected, personal selection of authors and works, including literature usually considered well below “serious attention”—from the rude jests of Anglo-Saxon runes to The Da Vinci Code. With masterful digressions into various themes—censorship, narrative tricks, self-publishing, taste, creativity, and madness—Sutherland demonstrates the full depth and intrigue of reading. For younger readers, he offers a proper introduction to literature, promising to interest as much as instruct. For more experienced readers, he promises just the same.’

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