8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
`Literature is an endless source of courage and confirmation.',
This review is from: Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (Paperback)
I was drawn to this book by some enthusiastic reviews by fellow readers. I was curious to find out what Ms Prose has to say on whether creative writing can be taught, keen to find out which writers she admires, which books she recommends, and why.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book: I particularly liked Ms Prose's suggestion that although writing workshops can be helpful, the best way to learn how to write is to read widely. Ms Prose encourages readers to read closely, to read every word and pay attention to the words used. Reading like a writer requires, perhaps, a different blend of the reading skills used in some other occupations. Words, for writers, are the `raw material out of which literature is crafted'. Words, for readers, constitute a finished work. Ms Prose suggests that the reader consider each word used and ask: `.. what sort of information is each word - each word choice - trying to convey?' For some of us, that conscious slowing down of reading won't always be easy.
`Details are what persuade us that someone is telling the truth - a fact that every liar knows instinctively and too well.'
There's advice about words, sentences, and paragraphs, about narration and character, about dialogue, details and gestures. What makes this advice come alive is the examples Ms Prose gives, and the writers whose work she draws on to demonstrate the points she makes. This leads to a list of book recommendations which inevitably, in my case, adds books to my personal `must read' list. But I'm drawn most immediately to want to read more work by Anton Chekhov. I like the way in which Ms Prose drew on her own reading of Chekhov's short stories, found examples of how he had successfully broken the `rules' of fiction writing which contradicted advice she had given her students. It isn't the contradiction I find interesting, it's the focus on how Chekhov wrote, on being receptive to the needs of any particular story.
`The advantage of reading widely, as opposed to trying to formulate a series of general rules, is that we learn there are no general rules, only individual examples to help point you in a direction in which you might want to go.'