Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.
In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.
Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.
Savard has a pleasant voice, a good vocal range and the important ability to emphasize for clarity and drama. She’s especially good at the long and very varied quotes Prose has selected to illustrate the elements of close reading, i.e., paying careful attention to words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details and gesture (her chapter headings). Prose has taught writing classes for more than 20 years and published 14 books. To be a good writer—or a good reader—she argues, you must develop the ability to focus on language and explore line by line how the best writers use each element of language to create unique and powerful people and stories. She pulls out words and phrases from various authors to show us, for example, precisely how Flannery O’Connor creates the literary equivalent of a fireworks display while Alice Munro writes with the simplicity and beauty of a Shaker box. This is a an excellent listen that belongs in any reader’s or writer’s library next to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. ~ Publisher Weekly