Synopses & Reviews
From Homer and Shakespeare to Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safran Foer, major works of literature have a great deal to teach us about two of life’s most significant stages—growing up and growing old. Distinguised scholar Arnold Weinstein’s provocative and engaging new book, Morning, Noon, and Night,
explores classic writing’s insights into coming-of-age and surrendering to time, and considers the impact of these revelations upon our lives.
With wisdom, humor, and moving personal observations, Weinstein leads us to look deep inside ourselves and these great books, to see how we can use art as both mirror and guide. He offers incisive readings of seminal novels about childhood—Huck Finn’s empathy for the runaway slave Jim illuminates a child’s moral education; Catherine and Heathcliff’s struggle with obsessive passion in Wuthering Heights is hauntingly familiar to many young lovers; Dickens’s Pip, in Great Expectations, must grapple with a world that wishes him harm; and in Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical Persepolis, little Marjane faces a different kind of struggle—growing into adolescence as her country moves through the pain of the Iranian Revolution.
In turn, great writers also ponder the lessons learned in life’s twilight years: both King Lear and Willy Loman suffer as their patriarchal authority collapses and death creeps up; Brecht’s Mother Courage displays the inspiring indomitability of an aging woman who has “borne every possible blow. . . but is still standing, still moving.” And older love can sometimes be funny (Rip Van Winkle conveniently sleeps right through his marriage) and sometimes tragic (as J. M. Coetzee’s David Lurie learns the hard way, in Disgrace).
Tapping into the hearts and minds of memorable characters, from Sophocles’ Oedipus to Artie in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Morning, Noon, and Night makes an eloquent and powerful case for the role of great literature as a knowing window into our lives and times. Its intelligence, passion, and genuine appreciation for the written word remind us just how crucial books are to the business of being human.
"This sprawling amalgam of literary criticism, survey, and memoir encompasses the passion of a comp-lit professor over the course of a career. Steeped in the writings of many Western cultures and times, Weinstein tours not only traditional forms, but the occasional graphic novel (Art Spiegelman's Maus) and film (Bergman's Wild Strawberries) to derive the verities of experience--the ways humans mature and exit life. The number of authors and works covered is staggering. Among the favored: William Blake, Sophocles, Marguerite Duras, Balzac, Faulkner, Dostoyevski, Joyce, Proust, and Ibsen, some relatively obscure (Tarjei Vesaas, for one), some more contemporary (Toni Morrison). The book is at its best when Weinstein zeroes in on eroticism, love, and remembrance. But all too often the juxtaposition of vastly different writers and periods feels arbitrary and forced. In the second half of the book, 'Growing Old,' Weinstein returns to a number of authors and their works, showing a change in perspective--yet only to confirm suspicions born of experience: that first discovery, like first love, is always the most exciting. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Arnold Weinstein is the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University and the author of A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life and Recovering Your Story: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison. His other books include Vision and Response in Modern Fiction; Fictions of the Self: 1550–1800; The Fiction of Relationship; Nobody’s Home: Speech, Self, and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo; and Northern Arts: The Breakthrough of Scandinavian Literature and Art, from Ibsen to Bergman. His lectures on world literature are produced in DVD and CD format by The Teaching Company. Professor Weinstein divides his time between Brown University, Block Island, Stockholm, and Brittany.