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PostSubject: Literary Reviews   Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:31 pm

Literary Reviews

A literary review gives a writer's opinion about a work of literature. Most literary reviews include:
  • a summary of the work being reviewed
  • background information on the writer or developments in writing
  • quotations or examples from the work that show its "flavor"
  • the reviewer's opinion of the work.

Remember that a literary review is a critic's opinion. Draw conclusions to evaluate the critic's judgements.
  • Think about how well the critic supports his or her judgements. For example, a critic might call a biography "boring". He or she should give examples, such as quotations, to explain why it is boring.
  • Think about the critic's standards. For example, a critic who loves action might say that a story is excellent because it is action-packed.

Use the following checklist to evaluate a review.


Does the critic
  • provide sufficient background information?
  • give an adequate overview or summary of the work?
  • suggest the "flavor" of the work through descriptions or quotations?
  • clearly state his or her opinions of the work?
  • support opinions with specific examples or quotations?
  • avoid unmerited praise or unjustified attacks?

The New York Times

Calvino's Urban Allegories
The New York Times, January 22, 1984

Or The Seasons in the City. By Italo Calvino. Translated by William Weaver. 121 pp. San Diego: Helen & Kurt Wolff/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Cloth, $9.95. Paper, $3.95.

By Franco Ferrucci

A SENTENCE from Italo Calvino's introduction to his "Italian Folktales" reveals the secret behind the magic of the earlier stories in "Marcovaldo": " I believe that fables are true." conversely, Mr. Calvino believes that reality is fabulous. When he began the stories of "Marcovaldo" in the 1950s and 60s he did not know he was creating a masterwork in the narrative trend labeled the nouveau roman by French critics. He simply followed his instincts as a storyteller and achieved a durable balance between the heritage of 20th-century Italian neorealism and a fabulous vision of reality.[...]
"Marcovaldo," sensitively translated by William Weaver, is a series of ecological allegories in the form of urban tales. Psychological insights are held back in favor of cartoons in which facts and people succeed one another with the geometrical smoothness of movie animation. Sharp definition and clarity are characteristics of Mr. Calvino's best prose in nooks such as " The Castle of Crossed Destinies," " The Nonexistent Knight and the Cloven Viscount " and "Cosmi-comics." Even early in his career, his rhetorical virtuosity disguised the subtlety and depth of his vision-especially in some of the stories in "Marcovaldo," like "The City Lost in the Snow," " A Saturday of Sun, Sand and Sleep" and "The Wrong Stop." He writes lightly and jauntly; any trace of effort is concealed. But what catches the reader goes beyond the unspotted perfection of the style; it is his uninhibited poetic sense of life.
Each story belongs to a season, and all of them together take their shape from the cycle of the seasons. Marcovaldo lives through the stories as the double of the writer, observing, reflecting, and comparing in a perfectly detached way. He is a humble and romantic blue-collar worker lost in the big city, which perverts rhythms and obfuscates cycles. He is trapped in the unreality of this modern city (the setting is vividly evoked in "Marcovaldo at the supermarket"), a place that even suffocates the life of the animal in the stories [...]
What is so much admired by the readers of Mr. Calvino's later "Invisible Cities" was already at work in "Marcovaldo" and with a more cogent narrative drive. " Invisible Cities" seems like a memory, while "Marcovaldo" conveys the sensuous, tangible qualities of life. the opening lines from "The Forest On The Super-highway", a story in "Marcovaldo", might serve as an invitation to readers to meet this tender and humorous Kafka of our days: "Cold has a thousand shapes and a thousand ways of moving in the world: on the sea it gallops like a troop of horses, on the countryside it falls like a swarm of locusts, in the cities like a knife-blade it slashes the streets and penetrates the chinks of unheated houses."
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