From one of our premier literary scholars, here is a learned and witty introduction to the "sheer vitality of literature and the satisfactions of a close, informed engagement with it" (New York Times). Robert Alter's illumination of the unique power of reading literature is especially valuable at a time when we are surrounded by electronic texts that distract more than engage and when the special claims of literature are disparaged by the high priests of literary theory. Alter explores the strategies that distinguish literature-the resources of style, the dynamics of allusion, the formal design of structure, the play of perspective in narrative. He draws on copious examples from the great works of literary art-from the Book of Genesis to Shakespeare, Conrad, and Nabokov-to illustrate his analysis of what makes reading a source of complex pleasure and insight.
Robert Alter's ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, the magnificent capstone to a lifetime of distinguished scholarly work, has won the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation. His immense achievements in scholarship ranging from the eighteenth-century European novel to contemporary Hebrew and American literature earned Alter the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.