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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who… (2006)

af Francine Prose

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
3,184872,999 (3.74)219
Before there were workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says author and teacher Prose. Prose invites you on a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the very best writers and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for 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.--From publisher description.… (mere)
Nyligt tilføjet afbellacrl, privat bibliotek, spinsterrevival, Jaded_Kiwi, emottay, Smokler, innermoss
  1. 00
    Damen med hunden og andre noveller af Anton Chekhov (sturlington)
    sturlington: Prose refers to the short stories of Chekhov extensively.
  2. 00
    How Novels Work af John Mullan (ajsomerset)
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» Se også 219 omtaler

Viser 1-5 af 87 (næste | vis alle)
I wasn’t really a fan of this, even though I can see that it’s likely going to be beneficial to many. The vast majority of stories and novels that Prose is recommending for worship seem not that interesting to me. I feel that there were too many male authors mentioned, and also I don’t enjoy short stories very much so it’s unlikely I’ll do any follow up on those.

I do heartily agree with the premise that of course writers should be readers first, but I have a problem with talking about “the greats” versus just great reads; I think writers can also get a ton out of genre fiction and not just the (what appears to me) pretentious stuff. Also the Chekhov hard on was annoying.

Ok so I just did math based on the “read these now” list at the back of the book, and less than 19% (18.6) were written by women. I’m taking another half star just because a woman should know better. ( )
  spinsterrevival | Jan 17, 2021 |
A guide to stealing useful ideas from the Great and the Good, assembled by Francine Prose, who as well as being a novelist is a long-serving stalwart of the American "Creative Writing" industry — even though she admits to doubts as to whether you can, or should, teach creative writing.

That aside, Prose obviously is a good teacher, and like many good teachers of literature, she's at her best when she's taking a text apart and showing you what is special about it. The discussions of general principles might across as rather generic and predictable, but the book comes alive when she is talking about specific examples. There are detailed chapters on most of the main building-blocks of fiction: words, sentences, paragraphs, characters, dialogue, details, and gesture. With, each time, a range of examples from contemporary writers as well as from the giants of the (US) academic canon to show the effect of the choices writers make in these areas. The book ends with a chapter dedicated to Chekhov's short stories, and another on the importance of courage (by which she means intelligent rule-breaking) in literature, and of course we aren't allowed to leave the classroom without a copy of her list of required reading. Judging by the 20-30% of this that is already familiar territory to me, I should think it's worth pursuing other names on the list as well. But I'm sure no reader of this book would ever have time to read everything on the list, if they were starting from zero!

Obviously, there are topics and writers she doesn't cover: although she reminds us that rules are there to be broken, the focus is on the sort of mainstream fiction that is expected from Creative Writing students in US colleges, so there won't be much there for anyone who wants to explore the specific opportunities and restrictions of genre fiction. Nor does she deal with writing from outside the US and the most important bits of the dominant European traditions (France from Balzac to Proust, Germany from Kleist to Mann, Russia from Turgenev to Chekhov, Britain from the Brontës to Henry Green).

But to talk about the narrowness of her examples is to miss the point: she wants to show us what we can find in a text if we take the trouble to ask the kind of questions she does about how a particular passage achieves its effect on the reader, and what we can steal from that to use in our own work.

The book made me re-read one of the pieces she discusses in some detail, Kleist's novella Die Marquise von O, which I thought I knew quite well, but I found myself noticing things in it that I hadn't seen before, so the technique obviously works, at least in the short term!

It's just a pity that a book which spends so much time showing us how to spot clichés and eliminate them from our work, and how to persuade publishers to allow us to break rules, ends up with the most clichéd cover design it's possible to have on a book-about-books. There must have been someone once who was the first person to do a cover design based on book-spines, but it certainly wasn't within the last forty or fifty years... ( )
  thorold | Nov 21, 2020 |
Like many lifelong readers, I hold the dream of writing a great novel. I think I am really a personal essayist but I haven't given up completely. So, with Francine Prose as the American Author challenge for April, I chose Reading Like a Writer. Prose shares her love affair with literature and writing in chapters that offer guidance and examples of the bones of creating compelling fiction including characters, dialog, and gestures. Her books to read makes me want to ditch all the challenges and dive in. You can find it here: https://www.giraffedays.com/?page_id=5899 I've read many of them over the years but never with the fine toothed comb practice by Prose. I have been trying to apply her techniques to the books I am reading. ( )
  witchyrichy | Apr 25, 2020 |
This was required reading for one of my Creative Writing classes in college. While I was reading I kept thinking I'd rather be reading short stories. Francine Prose is right about one thing, you learn the most from reading the classics, or the masters. Her list of suggested reading in the back led me to many youthful discoveries. She was so enthused about Chekhov that I ended up following her advice and reading the 13 volumes of his stories translated by Constance Garnett. In those volumes, almost everything you need to know about short stories is contained.

The contents of this book though, are more useful in theory. The style is nothing fancy, and does not draw me to toward Francine Prose's fictional works. I've read other books on writing, written by writers. But they only seem to impact me when I like the writers who wrote them. It's not that I don't respect Prose, but like she says, learn by reading the classics. In my eyes, her work has not attained that status yet.

I cannot deny that there is plenty of practical advice in this book, but if you are anything like me, or other writers I've met, you have to learn how to write by failing first and overcoming the first 1000 pages of drivel. Maybe others have an easier time. The fact of the matter is, no one book has all the answers. You could spend all day reading books about books, and books about writing, but you have to do the things about which you read in order to gain the most from your efforts.

What is the difference between a close reading and a rereading? Should you labor over a short story, drawing meaning out of every line, or should you read it ten times, memorize passages, and live in the story? This book weighs different approaches, but is careful not to give you haphazard answers to questions you should answer yourself.

In the age of Goodreads, or I should say, now that I've discovered Goodreads, I'm not sure I'll view these college-level bull session books in the same way. ( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
Do you like spoilers? Because this book is full of them.... Should come with a warning. ( )
  jenvogie | Oct 24, 2019 |
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Before there were workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says author and teacher Prose. Prose invites you on a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the very best writers and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for 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.--From publisher description.

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