Reading on Writing

 eulandReadinglikeawriter 9780062736390

A brief note today on a few writing books I’ve been reading lately…

Brenda Euland’s If You Want to Write (1938) is a re-read. Her upbeat and encouraging voice was just what I needed when I read it in 2001,a few years after I began to write seriously. Euland believes that we all have a creative gift and that we often stand in our own way by trying to force our ideas into the mold of what we are told is saleable, popular and current. On this reading, however, I found the author a bit on the Pollyanna side., which I suppose means that her message has sunken in and I now have the courage to write freely by my own lights. Hopefully.

I had seen such great reviews of Francine Prose’s Read Like a Writer (2006) that I was excited to get a copy in my hands. I may have set my expectations too high. The book felt only half-perfected, as if a professor was still honing her lectures and approach to the craft to writing, which seems to be an accurate picture from the classroom examples she gives. I want more from a book than that. Certainly, the long excerpts from novels and short stories that she includes as examples of Words, Sentences, Paragraphs, Narration, Character, Dialogue, Details and Gesture were worth the admission price (many are now on my Must-Read list), but her waffling commentary is annoying. If she admits she doesn’t know what to tell students about writing and knowingly contradicts herself constantly, why is she writing a book? Note: Chapter 8 / Details was a let-down for me, but only because I’d read it as a stand-alone essay in The Eleventh Draft (ed. Frank Conroy, 1999). It had a strong impact the first time I read it, but a perfect re-tread with no additions? Boring.

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