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Handing One Another Along: Literature and Social Reflection 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400062034
ISBN-10: 1400062039
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Psychiatrist and Harvard professor Coles (The Moral Intelligence of Children) adapts his undergraduate lectures on literature's contribution to the development of our moral character. The result amounts to both more and less than you might expect from a university course in modern literature. While less than comprehensive and eschewing more technical analyses, it delves into a generous handful of writers and artists--perennials like George Orwell, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, Tillie Olsen, Ralph Ellison, and Raymond Carver, among others--with uncommon insight and a personal touch, while offering excerpts of poetry and prose that often whet the appetite for more (a list of familiar titles for further reading appears in an appendix). Coles taps into the unintentional consonance between very different writers living and working in different circumstances but nonetheless writing from an abiding need for social introspection, justice, and communion across pernicious divisions of class, race, gender, ability--lines we inculcate to our own spiritual detriment. While recapitulating an undergraduate course, the book is more than an introduction to these authors; its approach will also be freshly appealing to many who have read some or even all of the writers cited.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* What serious reader hasn’t marveled at how a book has helped to shape his or her moral view of the world? Acclaimed psychiatrist Coles examines just how it is that literature influences moral meaning in our lives as acclaimed authors share their private wrestlings with life’s inequities. He is praiseful of the breathtaking insights of aesthetic genius and critical of the mean-spiritedness of some brilliant writers, using passages from famous works to examine how we regard ourselves and how we treat each other. Exploring issues of race and class and circumstances, Coles notes the “heart of darkness” in us all. Coles weaves recollections of his own life—when he rose to meet human needs and when hubris inflated him with self-importance—with writings by James Agee, Raymond Carver, Tillie Olsen, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, and others, as well as the art of Edward Hopper. In his direct and engaging style, Coles writes as a doctor and an individual of the challenges each of us face to connect with others or even to understand ourselves. A joy to read as much for the snippets of great literature as for Coles’ interpretations and the new perspectives he offers. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062034
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Opa Wayne VINE VOICE on October 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Handling One Another Along" is not what I expected. Thinking I was ordering an anthology, I received a course. Professor Robert Coles' text is the core of a thorough study of Literature that contributes to our character as a society.

Robert Coles discusses many pieces of literature but also introduces us to the significant authors who wrote about societies' ills. Knowing that James Agee lost his father helps us appreciate his "A Death in the Family". Similarly, learning that, when Flannery O'Connor was a patient in a hospital, a friend threw a "ripe" bedpan at a rude aggressive physician inflames the character of Flannery.

The professor's book contains his learned reflections on numerous literary tracts. His meditations are worth studying alone, but would be so much richer if studied with the original works themselves. I suggest the reader obtain the following books to accompany this text:
James Agee and Evans Walker, "Let us now praise famous men.
Georges Bernanos, "The Diary of a Country Priest".
Flannery O'Connor, "Mystery and Manners."
Raymond Carver, "Fires"
Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations.
Thomas Hardy, "Jude The Obscure".
George Orwell, "The Road to Wigan Pier."
Leo Tolstoy, "Confession", "The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories."
Elie Wiesel, "Night', "Why Christians Can't Forget The Holocaust."

I recommend "Handling One Another Along" to any serious student of literature or social problems. I highly recommend this book as a text in a college course in literature, sociology, or psychology.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Handling One Another Along, by Robert Coles we are given a Harvard Course in literature and lifelong learning. In this book we are given a deeper understanding of many of the well known authors we have heard of and sometimes, even read. In this book, however, we are introduced to all kinds of silent heroes as well. Heroes that are brought to us by George Orwell, James Agee, George Eliot, James Baldwin, Zora Neal Hurston, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, and many others. Through authorship, poems, works of art and even music, Robert Coles gives us plenty of food for thought.

This was a very interesting book. I love to read about authors and what they were trying to tell us. This book touches our hearts and asks us to be kind in the midst of it all. Robert Coles has given us reading materials to last a lifetime and and encourages us to put value on life whether it be a harvard professor or a fruit picker in the field, for who knows who is really smarter or who lives better, or who has more common sense or who can see inside our hearts and know us. Is it experience, theory, a degree, or a sense of an ownership of life that causes a person to be great?

I have many of the books Robert Coles recommends. Often times, they sit on the shelf waiting for me and I let them gather dust because I have so much to read and I love books so much that some of the new ones call my attention and I let the old ones sit and I look at them from time to time and tell myself that one day I will get around to it. The greats: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Baldwin, Carver, Ellison. I have them all and they are gathering dust.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Coles has taken on the difficult task of writing chapters based upon academic lectures on social justice writers, while seeking to awaken hearts at least as much as minds. When he shares personal encounters with authors and civil rights personalities, Coles is emotionally engaging. He captures the experience of Ruby Bridges, one of the first black children to undergo forced integration; he takes us along on his interviews with William Carlos Williams, not only a renowned poet but also a doctor dedicated to working with the poor. However, when he discusses writers, he often rambles, often without clearly articulating any main points.

Handing One Another Along discusses the lives and literature of fiction writers (mostly mid-20th century Americans) who focused upon minority groups, the poor or underprivileged. Coles writes of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, Raymond Carver's stories and poems (some written when he was dying of cancer). He introduces us to labor organizer Tillie Olsen and the stories of Flannery O'Connor. Most chapters begin with a biography, followed by a discussion of a few of an author's writings, accompanied by quotations of relevant passages (more meaningful if you have read the works in question, but interesting enough to incline you to want to read them).

Although he was writing for the general public, Coles' message was obviously intended originally for his Harvard students, attempting to counter their intellectualism and hubris while acquainting them with social justice literature. Education and culture are not necessary connected to living moral or ethical lives, Coles tells us. During Hitler's time, Germany had the most educated population of any nation; Goebbels had a P.H.D.
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