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The Writer's Voice Hardcover – 3 Jan 2005
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'Eloquent essays,rich in anecdote,from the hand of a true and lifelong servant of poetry.' J.M. Coetzee 'An impressive performance by a poet who allows nothing to come between him and the literature he loves. His book should not be neglected by anybody with a serious interest in modern literature and literary criticism.' Frank Kermode
About the Author
Al Alvarez is a poet, novelist, literary critic, anthologist, and author of many highly praised non-fiction books on topics ranging from suicide, divorce, and dreams - The Savage God, Life After Marriage, Night- to poker, North Sea oil, and mountaineering - The Biggest Game in Town, Offshore, Feeding the Rat. His most recent books are New and Selected Poems and an autobiography, Where Did It All Go Right? He lives in London.
Top customer reviews
As you read, you find yourself pausing to have a think about what's been said, to ask yourself if you agree or disagree. The author has firm views, but I never felt that he was beating me about the head with them; rather, I was being asked to consider if perhaps he had a point. On balance, I thought he did.
His first lecture, `Finding a Voice', describes the basic authorial skills expected today: an economy of words, good technique, specific imagery, directness, and authenticity. What Alvarez talks about here is his Modernist ideal of the writer as an artist, and he uses Plath's `The Moon and the Yew Tree', as his guide to perfection.
His second lecture, `Listening', describes the importance of allowing ones musicality to simmer through language's formal rules. Alvarez declares chaos and unpredictability to be as important as skill in itself, taking Alfred Brendel, Novalis and Einstein as telling sources here.
He concludes by emphasising the complicity of both skill and instinct in any true art. I thought Alvarez began to get self-defensive here; he inveighs against the Beat generation's reaction to (his ideal of) high Modernism, accusing them of ushering in a fake relationship between the poet, the work, and the audience. Apparently, today, we are all too scared of understanding art and so prefer to become absorbed in personalities, like Emin, splashed across tabloids.
Despite the elitist tones echoing round this book, Alvarez is good to his own word; he keeps away from both cliché and jargon, and strolls around his subject naturally, at ease with what he's saying whilst knowing he's saying it well. This is definitely worth a peruse.
Alvarez' view of art as a quest for order and rationality by people who are not very orderly or (in some cases) sane themselves but, nevertheless, quite loveable, will not be to everyone's taste not will his passionately held views about the writers' voice but they will make you think and deserve attention.