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First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process Hardcover – March 16, 2009


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First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process + Emerson: The Mind on Fire (Centennial Books) + Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Robert Richardson has done exquisite service both to Emerson and to the many readers this book will surely attract and leave with a deeper understanding of Emerson the writer. How many of us have read through all the journals to gather his thoughts, often private, uncontained in the essays, about the actual work of turning language into the fertile body of expressed thought? As in his biography of Emerson, The Mind on Fire, we are recipients again of Richardson’s scholarship, his unflagging, inquisitive, humanist unveiling of the great Emerson’s thoughts.”—Mary Oliver


"In this brief, elegant, and quietly passionate volume Robert Richardson has produced an invaluable handbook for the writer and aspirant writer, a copy of which should be presented to every student in every writing class around the world, for it is a serious course he is embarked on, in which he must learn to write not in the hope of expressing his puny self but to be, among other things, a guardian of language."-John Banville, The New York Review of Books


“Richardson is Emerson’s foremost biographer, and he has culled the great man’s work for the kind of specific, timeless instruction that makes the difference between good writing and great writing. This is the book on writing that Emerson would have used to teach his lucky students. The chapter on sentences sparkles, and it alone is worth the purchase. Everyone who wants to learn about writing should read this book.”—Susan Cheever, author, American Bloomsbury and Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction

About the Author

Robert D. Richardson is the author of William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, which won the 2007 Bancroft Prize, Emerson: The Mind on Fire, which won both the Francis Parkman Prize and the Melcher Book Award and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, which also won the Melcher Book Award.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587297930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587297939
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on September 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Instructions: Buy this book -- but don't read it. Not immediately. Keep it on hand. Buy a nice bottle of wine. Nothing exorbitant, but better than you'd ordinarily buy for yourself. Save both book and wine for a solitary despairing evening with bad weather. An evening on which you are pretty much certain that you are a lost cause. Read book with wine, enough to induce hope or facilitate grieving, but not so much that you are unable to take notes. As this is a slightly expensive book, and only long enough for one sitting -- and because it is excellent and powerful medicine -- you should save it for when you most need it. Then, if you like, you can give the book as a gift when visiting a particularly important friend -- in lieu of the wine, which you drank.

Everything Robert D. Richardson writes is phenomenal -- elegant and life-giving. He has a unique ability to turn gigantic feats of research into pure inspiration. On the way to learning about Emerson, I learn also how to live. The biographies of Thoreau, Emerson and James are all essential -- and I hope very much that there is still more to come.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on April 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is as much about Ralph Waldo Emerson as it is about reading and writing. It reveals the books he read as well as the way he thought and wrote. Thinking was not part of the title but it was clear that it is every bit as important. Emerson was an intellectual in that he read, thought, and wrote. That is the intellectual's life and anyone aspiring to that life would find this a helpful book. "There is always a right word, and every other that is wrong." This book also discussed the writers who had influenced Emerson; writers like Goethe and Shakespeare.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By bookbestcrtitic on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
An excellent, wonderfully readable and insightful study of the great Emerson. A must read for scholars and poets and general readers alike.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By beacon on March 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No need to have read Emerson before reading this book, however, it will probably make you want to explore more and read him.

Great advice for writers and enjoyment in the discoveries.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By P. Stern on January 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Wow, what a little depth-charge of a book! With Richardson as our guide, Emerson speaks encouragement and harsh wisdom to would-be writers. A thrilling read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Frosty on December 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Richardson is a brilliant biographer of William James, Henry Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson's biography is the best I have ever read. Richardson continues with a discussion of Emerson's essays on reading and writing, again brilliantly done. Thank you, Robert Richardson!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By netaron on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have already read "The Mind on Fire" by Richardson, no need to read this book. But if you haven't, it is a great read and conveys some of the passion Emerson had for writing, but nevertheless, it is a very well written book and Richardson never seizes to amaze me with his style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BLehner on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Don't ask me why this book has escaped my attention for so long, seeing how much I love Ralph Waldo Emerson's work. While I already knew him as a wonderful poet, I admittedly haven't been all that familiar with his person and life.
In First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson On The Creative Process Robert D. Richardson presents a marvelous and engaging little manual digging deep into the central passion of Emerson's life, who was literally in love and addicted to books. Mainly focusing on the important interconnection of reading and writing, it also thematizes the need to reflect on nature for language, the recommendation of keeping a journal or earning the attention of the audience. The reader gains not only an understanding of what fueled Emerson's creative process, but will learn a lot for own literary endeavors. This sophisticated and wonderfully engrossing book is filled with practical hints and speaks to the poet in each of us.
I recommend reading this book along with Emerson's The Poet which is one of the most significant works on expressionism in literature. Best enjoyed on a quiet afternoon with no distractions around, this is the kind of book you will want to dip in more than just once and it will reward you with new and deeper insights every time.
In short: A delightful little book on my own two passions - reading and writing - this is definitely a must-read for every author!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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