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Letters to a Young Novelist Hardcover – Jun 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan; American ed edition (Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374119163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374119164
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 793,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"ÝLlosa's ambition worthy of . . . masters . . . with a technical skill that brings him closer to the heirs of Flaubert and Henry James." --Suzanne Jill Levine, "The New York Times Book Review"

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Amazon.com: 13 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Concise, Real, and Enlightening 17 Aug. 2002
By "50cent-haircut" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is written as a series of letters to an anonymous, aspiring novelist. Obviously it is fashioned after Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet", and although somewhat cheeky, the style and tone of these pseudo-letters fit Mario Vargas Llosa's objectives in writing.
Unlike some of the mainstream writing tutorials that are around, this volume, although slight in page length, has genuine and truly original insights that will help your writing tremendously. For example, whereas most writing instructors teaach you to stick to one point-of-view, Vargas Llosa says one of the most unbending rules in fiction is that no novel sticks to one kind of point-of-view, that it subtly changes. There are equally startling and persuasive directives regarding spatial and temporal matters in fiction.
The book is fun to read as well; only a novelist of Vargas Llosa's caliber can dismiss many of the so-called 'classics' and not seem vindictive and/or crazy. To fully understand this book (although not totally necessary), a reader should have at least a passing knowledge of the writers and their works that Vargas Llosa invokes as examples. i.e. Proust, Flaubert, Robbes-Grillet, etc.
If you are an aspiring writer, chances are good that this wry book will be an indispensable guide. Highly recommended.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Adroitly written 28 July 2002
By bentmax - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Letters" is an adroitly written instruction book for beginning writers. Incorporating an imaginary correspondent, Mario Vargas Llosa writes a series of letters to a young protege sharing his years of literary experience and outlining the principles that make a novel. It is an interesting vehicle for an instruction book and it works. Most books of how to write are overloaded with superfluous detail and have the annoying tendency to be academic in the approach to writing. This book is breezy, conversational, loaded with brilliant insight and fun to read. Sighting loads of examples from classic and not so classic novels he brings to life essential topics of style, voice, time, point of view and other narrative tools that the masters of the novel have incorporated for hundreds of years.
Many of the novelists Vargas Llosa sites for his many examples are unknown to me and he has roused my interest in reading their books. Alas, many of them are not translated into English (at least not that I can find on Amazon). But that does not diminish the satisfaction derived from reading this diminutive book. His best advice to any writer is to be a great reader. An example he has clearly followed himself.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Insightful and encouraging 4 Dec. 2010
By Sarah - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this short but entertaining and enlightening little book, Mario Vargas Llosa discusses the art of writing fiction. As the title states, it is divided up into 11 letters ostensibly written to an admiring young novelist.

This is not so much a "how-to" writing guide, with step-by-step instructions on improving one's craft and abilities. Though it addresses many of the same subjects (Style, Narration, Time, etc.) it still, to some degree, feels like it touches on something deeper, within the writer himself. It's hard for me to say exactly what that is at this point, several months after I finished reading the book, but suffice it to say, at the time I had a distinct feeling that I was not only reading about how to improve my writing, but myself as one who desires to write. In this regard, I found the book extremely encouraging. The style is warm, open, and friendly. No sense of arrogance, no put-downs, no bitter cynicism or sarcasm. Go live and love life and bring that to your writing. And more importantly: write, write, write and do not stop.

I enjoyed reading this book, not only because it was full of helpful advice, but because it made me feel like writing is something that I can do and have as much right to do as anyone else, including seasoned and published authors. It's easy to fall prey to the notion that we aren't as worthy of writing because we aren't as talented, practiced, capable or whatever as the greats but it isn't true. Anyone can write and we should all strive to improve ourselves and our writing. This book mentions several ways to do just that but there are many more. The best and only way to figure them out is to sit down and start punching out word after word after word.

If I knew an aspiring writer who needed some advice and encouragement, I would give him this book. Definitely recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
good advice but a bit much for a "young" novelist 21 Aug. 2007
By Elmore Hammes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The introduction leads one to believe this is geared toward a fourteen or fifteen year old potential writer. God knows it would have flown over my head at any time before my mid-twenties - both the intellectual discussions presented and the literary references made.

It still shown a bright blazing light at my near complete ignorance of Spanish and Latin American novelists. But taken in the sense of "young" meaning "beginning" novelist, it was a good read with a lot of interesting viewpoints on the makeup of a novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Essential Companion 29 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Reading Mario Vargas Llosa's works of literature is one of the best experiences a reader can have. In "Letters to a Young Novelist" Vargas Llosa shares the name of authors that have shaped his life as a writer, along with his personal insight on narrative techniques, and an unconditional love for the written word. Each chapter presents valuable information for anyone interested in the art of writing or for anyone who enjoys reading a well-written book.
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