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Reading Like a Writer (P.S.) [Kindle Edition]

Francine Prose
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.

In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in 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.

Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Savard has a pleasant voice, a good vocal range and the important ability to emphasize for clarity and drama. She's especially good at the long and very varied quotes Prose has selected to illustrate the elements of close reading, i.e., paying careful attention to words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details and gesture (her chapter headings). Prose has taught writing classes for more than 20 years and published 14 books. To be a good writer—or a good reader—she argues, you must develop the ability to focus on language and explore line by line how the best writers use each element of language to create unique and powerful people and stories. She pulls out words and phrases from various authors to show us, for example, precisely how Flannery O'Connor creates the literary equivalent of a fireworks display while Alice Munro writes with the simplicity and beauty of a Shaker box. This is a an excellent listen that belongs in any reader's or writer's library next to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Life is precious, and much of that preciousness lies in the details: the sights, the sounds, the scents we too often ignore in our busy lives. Prose makes a superb application of that concept for readers of fiction. To know how the great writers create their magic, one needs to engage in a close reading of the masters, for that is precisely what successful writers have done for thousands of years. College programs in creative writing and summer workshops serve a purpose, but they can never replace a careful reading of the likes of Austen, Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Salinger, Tolstoy, and Woolf. In this excellent guide, Prose explains exactly what she means by close reading, drawing attention to the brick and mortar of outstanding narratives: words, sentences, paragraphs, character, dialogue, details, and more. In the process, she does no less than escort readers to a heightened level of appreciation of great literature. Many will want to go to the shelves to read again, or for the first time, the books she discusses. And to aid them, she thoughtfully adds a list at the end: Books to Be Read Immediately.–Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1110 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1908526076
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,226 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
191 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Putting every word on trial for its life." October 2, 2006
Francine Prose, in "Reading Like a Writer," argues that creative writing cannot be taught in a classroom. A workshop may provide valuable encouragement and support for a fledgling writer, and a good instructor may show a novice how to edit his work more effectively. However, a writer learns his craft by reading and rereading the books, novels, plays, and short stories of great writers, and he improves his skills through practice. Prose recommends studying "meter with Ovid, plot construction with Homer, comedy with Aristophanes." She backs up her thesis by giving a host of examples from writers she admires, such as Austen, Hemingway, Joyce, Chekhov, and others who are a bit more obscure.

Prose discusses the basics, including the use of the exact word, sentence building, paragraphing, point of view, character, and dialogue. Close reading, she asserts, enables us to understand not only what the writer is stating, but also what he is implying. The subtext is often as important, if not more important, than the text itself. Throughout "Reading Like a Writer" are excerpts, some brief, some lengthy, from a variety of sources, followed by Prose's witty, insightful, and informative commentary. Why does the writer choose one particular word or phrase rather than another? How do the seemingly minor details and gestures in a scene sometimes convey more information than the characters' statements?

"Reading Like a Writer" is not a handbook or a manual. It is a love letter to the mysterious alchemy, the magic that occurs when a reader encounters a book, poem, or story that not only entertains him, but also moves and transforms him.
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186 of 208 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be a Better Reader in Order to Become a Better Writer August 31, 2006
You certainly are a person who enjoys reading. The beauty of this book is that its author teaches us how to read carefully, deliberately and slowly in order to digest and extract the ideas behind the words, and also to identify the style of an specific writer. By doing so Francine Prose gives us the tool that we may require to become a better writer. Basically is a process of learning by example, and Prose goes all the way to select and bring us a lot of examples, both from classical and contemporary authors.

As you advance through the chapters you will find examples covering the fundamentals of writing, including aspects related to narrative, plot development, characters creation, as well as the basics of sentence and paragraph structure.

Even if you have no intention at all of becoming a writer you will love this book, since it also teaches us how to have a better appreciation of what we read.
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265 of 309 people found the following review helpful
Because my opinion is so divergent from the other reviews here (all but two gave five-stars), I read them to see what I might have missed. Instead I found myself wondering whether we had read the same book: See "Review the Reviews" below. Reviewer Bukowsky (October 2, 2006) states "... not a handbook or a manual. It is a love letter ..." thereby unintentionally capturing the basic failing of this book - its title states that it is "A Guide ..."

What I expected was a series of examples with analysis of what made them work or not work. There were far fewer examples than I expected, the analysis was typically slight, and there was too much extraneous material.

For example, in the chapter on "Sentences", too much of the commentary on the examples was simply effusive praise of the sentence's author. I strongly disagreed with Prose's assessment of roughly a third of the sentences cited, but she didn't provide enough analysis for me to understand her point of view (declarations of something as great is not an argument).

In the chapter on "Paragraphs", the author starts with an example from Babel's "Crossing into Poland." At first I thought it strange to be using a translated work as an example, but then she presented another translation as a counterpoint. I then thought "What a brilliant way to get examples of the effects of the differences in choices by two professional writers." However, she failed to effectively follow through. Also, I differed with her on the analysis of the passage in question: "... the highroad ... built ... upon the bones of peasants." Her analysis was that it "introduced some element of unease.
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139 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prose on Prose August 28, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Francine Prose knows prose. In "Reading Like a Writer," she presents the timeless truth that great writers are great readers of great writers. More than that, Prose parses how to read well, which in our hurried, image-driven age, has become something of a lost art, even for literature lovers.

She not only encourages and explains the reading of the classics, Prose also offers a diet rich in vignettes from an egalitarian menu of authors. She is like a chef who tells you to eat great food, teaches you how to cook five-star meals, and then takes you to a five-star restaurant to become a connoisseur.

As the subtitle suggests, two primary audiences will enjoy "Reading Like a Writer." Anyone who loves books, will glean insights into great books and how to enjoy them. Anyone who wants to write books, will learn how to write better--more creatively, powerfully, and yet still personally.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Overall, Pretty Disappointed
This is another one of those books that had been on my TBR list for years and years, picked up and attempted to start numerous times only to put it down for something more... Read more
Published 2 months ago by FireworksAndFiction
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh!
Real writers already know this stuff, but it's useful for the writers who work at Starbucks to pay their parents for their lodgings.
Published 2 months ago by A. Levine
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books for any audience
Ms. Prose is a wonderful writer. This is a wonderful book. Though it is addressed to wannabe writers, it is so good and thoughtful that you should read it if you just love to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by D. C. Carrad
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
required school book
Published 3 months ago by Rheadawn Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars my grammar is very bad, can be bewildered to people
I need any book to teach me,my grammar is very bad,can be bewildered to people." English language wish catalogue more than 600,000 words ", I don't want pity,I was mute and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Thelma
5.0 out of 5 stars Need a constant companion?
I am becoming more thrifty about book purchases and how many pairs of shoes I own, and more aware of how much pie I eat and going outside in any weather conditions. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lisa Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful book. All writers should read it.
Published 4 months ago by frances n fassett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Got here quickly and as described.
Published 4 months ago by Lucy Reyes
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book.
Published 4 months ago by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has remained one of my anchors in a ...
This book has remained one of my anchors in a professional library. I gifted this copy to my granddaughter who hopes to pursue a career in writing.
Published 4 months ago by Madeline
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