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Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 27, 2009


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1ST edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439108617
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439108611
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,374,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Even when writing teacher Benedict is writing fiction, she’s writing about writing—her novel Almost (2001) is about a best-selling novelist. So the subject of this irresistible anthology was a natural for her. People become writers by virtue of literary inspiration, be it a book, a place, or a mentor, so why not invite writers to write essays about their literary influences? The response was overwhelming and avid. Benedict reports, “I seemed to have hit a nerve.” What’s more, these exceptionally animated essays feel as though the writers couldn’t get the words down quickly enough. And what an array of experiences and voices. Mary Gordon remembers Elizabeth Hardwick. Sigrid Nunez shares vivid memories of Susan Sontag. Joyce Carol Oates ponders the “singular” book of her childhood, Alice in Wonderland. Carolyn See portrays her father, who at age 69 began writing hard-core pornography. Julia Glass, Dinaw Mengestu, Caryl Phillips, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Safran Foer––all share profound and moving tales of transformation that encapsulate the entire collective experience of literature, a living force tapped into, handed down, cherished. --Donna Seaman

Review

"Even when writing teacher Benedict is writing fiction, she's writing about writing.... So the subject of this irresistible anthology was a natural for her. People become writers by virtue of literary inspiration, be it a book, a place, or a mentor, so why not invite writers to write essays about their literary influences? The response was overwhelming and avid.... these exceptionally animated essays feel as though the writers couldn't get the words down quickly enough. And what an array of experiences and voices." -- Booklist

"A mesmerizing book of essays by famous pens who themselves were once helped -- or hurt -- by established talents as they tried to climb their way up the literary ladder. [Mentors, Muses & Monsters] beautifully captures the experience of being a literary aspirant -- wide-eyed, enchanted by words, and eager for the tutelage of a mentor -- one who's already scaled the temple wall and emerged, shining, in a turret." -- The Christian Science Monitor

"Every one of the essays here -- from Benedict's own remembrance of Elizabeth Hardwick to Christopher Castellani's "Coming of Age at Breadloaf" is wise and full of heart." -- Chicago Tribune

"Michael Cunningham relates his discovery of Mrs. Dalloway, the happy result of failing to impress a girl during high school.... Joyce Carol Oates tells us that she had no mentor but books.... And in terrific essays on the New York Review of Books and the Iowa Writers Workshop, Neil Gordon and Jane Smiley give us a sense...of how institutions conspire to turn ordinary human beings into award-winning authors." -- Bookforum (Robert P. Baird Nov. 5)

"Enthralling.... [a] lovingly compiled collection of essays." -- The Errant Aesthete

"This anthology is that rare gem, a collection whose whole is greater, even, than the sum of its parts. Where else could you read musings-about-muses, accompanied by juicy tales from deep inside the writing life, by 30 of the best minds of our generation, all between the covers of one book?" -- The San Francisco Chronicle

"The essays are not simply worshipful tributes to literary lions. Each writer shades in the nuances of character and experience that make his subject come to life, and each reads like a short story.... For the reader aspiring to sharpen his own craft, gem after gem emerges from this book's pages.... I haven't finished reading all the essays. In truth, I am reluctant to complete it, so deliciously rich and illuminating have I found each offering. I suspect any writer or serious reader will feel the same way." -- MV Times

More About the Author

Elizabeth Benedict, a graduate of Barnard College, is a bestelling novelist, journalist, teacher of creative writing, editor, and writing coach. She has published five acclaimed novels, including the bestseller ALMOST, a classic book on writing fiction, and hundreds of reviews, essays, and magazine articles. She is the editor of the celebrated anthology, MENTORS, MUSES & MONSTERS: 30 WRITERS ON THE PEOPLE WHO CHANGED THEIR LIVES (Excelsior Press, Feb. 2012/Simon & Schuster 2009) and of WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME: THIRTY-ONE WOMEN ON THE GIFTS THAT MATTERED MOST (Algonquin April 2013).

NEWSWEEK and Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan chose her novel, the bestseller ALMOST, as one of the top novels of 2001. Her novels have established her reputation as a writer who "specializes in the subterranean currents of modern relationships, the secret motivations and betrayals that underlie everyday interactions" (Newsday). Hallie Ephron in the Boston Globe called her most recent novel, THE PRACTICE OF DECEIT, "a wickedly funny literary suspense novel" that is "wry, at times heartbreaking, always smart and entertaining." Newsday's reviewer said that Benedict's "wit is as sharp as her eye, and twice as fast. She writes the hard, horrifying truth about human nature, and it is addictively entertaining."

Her first novel, SLOW DANCING, published in 1985, was shortlisted for the National Book Award. She is also the author of several other novels and of a classic book, THE JOY OF WRITING SEX: A GUIDE FOR FICTION WRITERS, which is used widely in writing programs and has been featured on radio shows in the UK and Australia.

She has taught fiction and non-fiction writing at Barnard, the New School, Princeton, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Swarthmore College, and MIT and has written for many publications, including The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, The New York Times, Salmagundi, Esquire, Tin House,Harper's Bazaar, and The American Prospect.

Please visit: www.elizabethbenedict.com for free essays and the latest news. PLEASE NOTE: Color photos must run with photo credit: (c) Daniel Lake. Black and white photo must run with photo credit (c) Emma Dodge Hanson.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth R. Mabry on February 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Whether you believe writers are born with their talent or develop it, they all have important influences that shape their art and their destinies. For this collection, editor Elizabeth Benedict solicited 30 contemporary writers (Joyce Carol Oates, Julia Glass, Mary Gordon, Jane Smiley and others) to describe the formative individuals who, for better or worse, helped shape their writing lives. While most of the "mentors, monsters, and muses" were teachers, editors, and the like, some contributors pointed not to actual people but to other writers' work as their most compelling influences. Thus, the powers that mold their literary careers become as varied as the writers themselves.

Jay Cantor, in his selection called "Fathers," affectionately recalls taking a class at Harvard with Bernard Malamud who became a mentor to him. Cantor's own father wanted his son to become a doctor and was never receptive to his son's literary aspirations. Cantor describes how Malamud encouraged him to become a writer: "What Bern's moral imperatives offered me was a way to turn the thing I wanted to do into the thing that I was kind of in a way required to do. He helped me make the enterprise of writing moral, the sort of thing a grown-up should do."

I think one of the most compelling pieces in this collection is Cheryl Strayed's "Munro Country." Strayed hero-worshiped Alice Munro as a writer and once received a personal letter from Munro praising a story Strayed had sent her, unsolicited. Munro's letter said, referring to the story, "... I wouldn't have changed a hair on its head." Strayed had such ardent longing and admiration for Munro that she sounded like a child seeking her lost mother.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Henry James on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What an engrossing read for people who love fiction.

Have you ever wanted to know more about how authors you admire formed their sensibilities? Who their big influences and teachers were? And indeed, how influence itself works?

Then you will love this book. The authors clearly cared deeply about their subjects, and write with poignancy and insight about their mentors.

From the high school girl who shamed Michael Cunningham into reading Virginia Woolf, to Jonathan Safran Foer's charming account of his relationship to a great Israeli poet, the book is filled with great essays by great writers.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pericles on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This collection must satisfy the essential holiday reading needs of critics, clerics, caesars and even curmudgeons. Few of them will be able to read through these pieces without smiling or catching his or her breath in a moment of pleasure and admiration, maybe with a tear. Each of us has a figure or two to whom we owe more than we can thank, more than we can even say. Who better to try than people who make their living expressing the ineffable, the sublime, the quotidian? Some of these are just plain fun or even funny (like Maud Casey's marvelous, joyful piece on her parents), some poignant, complex and revealing (like Mary Gordon's on Lizzie Hardwick and Janice Thaddeus), some virtuso performances (like Neil Gordon on Bob Silvers and the NYRB). For me, almost every one of them hit a rich, vibrating but authentic note, telling me something about the writer, the mentor/muse, the process of becoming and maybe something about myself. Get this book. Open it almost anywhere. Read the piece on which the page opens. I bet you can't read just one.
I wonder who all those Smiths are that the editor lists as her mentors and muses. I yearn to read the essay about them.
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Format: Hardcover
There are central figures in everyone's lives who are the cornerstones of who they have become. "Mentors, Muses, & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives' is a collection of essays from many writers as they reflect on these individuals who have changed the course of their lives. Thirty different perspectives offer very different stories and shows the impact of positive and negative influences can drastically have. "Mentors, Muses, & Monsters" is an intriguing and top pick for those who want to understand inspiration and the people who provide it.
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By Voracious Reader on December 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This behind the scenes look at writer's best, worst, and most important influences is a both touching and at times funny read. Writers and readers will enjoy this.
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