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You've been reading at least since the third grade. Unfortunately, too often many of us continue to read at that level.  Let's take "The Great Gatsby" for example. Have you compared and contrasted the attitudes of the mid-westerners to those from the East Coast? Who is the "wild wag of an oculist" overlooking the garbage dump and what does he represent? And who is the "great" Gatsby, who is introduced almost as though he were a circus performer? Does the theme portray Gatsby as an idealist or just another crooked businessman? What about Daisy and Tom Buchanan? What attracts them to each other? What is Fitzgerald's opinion of his characters, particularly Gatsby? Does Nick speak for Fitzgerald? The Wilsons seem to represent those who have lost whatever strength and conviction they once possessed. How important are they to the plot and theme? Once you can thoroughly analyze a book like the Great Gatsby, knowing the plot seems unimportant...

Okay! Call me old and grouchy. In fact, I am getting old but I'm still going to recommend Strunk & White's "Elements of Style" for two reasons: 1) That's how I learned the vagaries of grammar, punctuation, usage, etc. and I've used "the little book" successfully in ESL, composition, literature and creative writing classes. 2) The major reason is that no student wants to spend--or needs to spend--hours going through interminable grammar and punctuation exercises. Instead, use E. B. White's marvelous book to learn the fundamentals. Then, student and tutor can begin to learn how to write, edit and re-write. A far more profitable and enjoyable line of work. I have written professionally for over forty years. Far more helpful than grammar and punctuation tests is a good ear. If something sounds wrong, it most likely is! The last thing to try to memorize are dozens of meaningless rules. Spend that precious time on developing a topic and re-writing for... read more

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