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A Letter from Prof. Griffith

Last month I bought a book entitled Writing Essays about Literature by American Prof. Kelly Griffith at University of North Carolina. This book is well-written and helps enthusiastic literature students a lot, just like me. I am trying hard to absorb its essence. But there are numerous questions designed to test students or readers’ abilities of understanding literature. I know these questions may be open, without definite answers. But I do hope Prof. Griffith could give me a helping hand–is it possible for him to tell me some tips to answer these questions or to do more interactions with him and his readers around the world? Therefore I sent him an email. To my suprise, I heard from him soon.
Thank you for your interest in my book and for writing me all the way from China. The purpose of the questions I pose in my book is to inspire readers to analyze and think creatively about literature in general and about specific works of literature. Answers one might give to these questions depend on the work or works one is studying. So the upshot is that I don’t have specific answers to these questions. But if you want to pose one or more of my questions about individual works of literature, I’d be glad to think with you about possible answers. For example, I recently read a novel by your countryman, the Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian, called Soul Mountain. I found it interesting but puzzling. So I would use some of my questions to try to understand it better. I would probably start with his narrative strategy. He seems to have two characters and thus two plot lines that he follows. What are the relationships between these two? (I would ask). What are these characters like? What conflicts do they have within themselves and with their cultural environment?
One of the other things I do is make furniture. Recently I’ve become very interested in Chinese furniture of the Ming period. I think it’s gorgeous and would love to be able to make some. Do you like it, too? Again, thank you. Best wishes in your studies.
Kelley Griffith


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