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Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home: Life on the Page Hardcover – September 5, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015101132X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011322
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,847,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freed, author of five novels and, most recently, the story collection The Curse of the Appropriate Man, offers insights into her writing and her life in 11 clean, incisive essays that mix the personal with the instructional without going too deeply into either. How autobiography shapes fiction particularly interests her: in "Sex with the Servants," Freed describes how her novel Home Ground caused a scandal in her native South Africa (at the few book-related events that weren't cancelled, all anyone wanted to know was if she'd really touched her garden boy's penis). Her family, who also appeared in print, were not nearly as outraged, and for would-be writers, Freed offers several firm pronouncements ("Writers themselves are natural murderers"; "The real writer... is a moral reprobate"), which suggest that to worry about others' feelings cheapens one's art. This apologia for the way writers skewer those around them shares space with a careful consideration of her own work's themes—alienation, family, home, travel, performance—episodic but interesting glimpses into Freed's life (a larger-than-life mother, a wild family, a troubled marriage, a difficult gig teaching writing). Freed's honesty is always tempered by what feels like cool reserve, but this nevertheless is an instructive, enlightening book. 10 b&w photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In the risky genre of writing about writing, Freed has emerged with a finely crafted and revelatory work—and with an honesty that bludgeons. In her essays (first published in various magazines and newspapers), she bemoans that writing cannot be taught and that in her role as a teacher, "the job is turning me into a dancing ape." Whatever goes on in her classroom doesn’t matter: she teaches us now with her essays. And what she teaches is that writing is wholly demanding and that mere intention is insufficient. But when the demand is met, we get work something like Freed’s—transforming, enigmatic, and painful in its brutal honesty.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


More About the Author

LYNN FREED was awarded the inaugural Katherine Anne Porter Award for fiction by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the author of six novels, a short story collection, and a collection of essays.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
I recommend this book highly to anyone who appreciates writing.
Marsha L. Keeffer
True or not, writer Lynn Freed shares the great man's sentiment in her beautiful, clever, if occasionally brutal memoir and mediation on the art of writing.
J. A Magill
Michael Cunningham once opined that a perfect world would be one in which Lynn Freed was a household name.
Thomas W Cooney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In these eleven essays, Freed bares her heart in a combination memoir and reflection on writing, life and the blurred edges between the two. A native South-African, Freed is an award-winning author of five novels and a short story collection, a woman with a unique voice in the modern world. Freed shares the sources of her inspiration and the myriad ways autobiography shapes fiction, tackling her topics with refreshing directness, examining the writer's role in defining and molding characters. The author makes a strong case for those who suffer for their parent's "benign neglect", a condition that allows the writer-in-training to observe society and her response to it: "My sense of male entitlement has carried easily into every sphere of my life."

Freed's childhood fascination with witches and goblins is soon replaced by the nightmarish images of the Holocaust; given access to everything in her parent's extensive library, these are the volumes remain etched in her consciousness, a hint of the world beyond fairytales. The third daughter, with two beautiful sisters and a number of miscarried brothers: "I was treated with amusement, like a sort of wild card." Enjoying this particular cachet in the family hierarchy, Freed remarks, "The bolder I was, the better they liked it". Eventually, her facile jousting with words is the only tool the young girl uses for engaging the opposite sex, coming into her own later. Her South African roots still evident, Freed leaves home for New York and beyond, carrying with her the memories of apartheid and Jewish history, armed with her imagination and sharp wit.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W Cooney on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michael Cunningham once opined that a perfect world would be one in which Lynn Freed was a household name. A nice sentiment, but one that could only ever be a dream. For what makes Freed so brilliant is her fearless insight. In order to be a household name, Freed would have to temper her thoughts and opinions, and that would be a miserable loss. At its heart, this collection is about place and home and loss and more loss. But in its smart humor and intelligence it reads like the best fiction. It's a relief to find that after all her years involved with academe, Freed can write with such elan and acumen without ever crossing the border into pretentiousness.

At first glance, however, you sense that this is a book of musings. Unless you look at the first essay as an integral part of all that follows, it seems a little facile and breezy. And the uncareful reader will get the feeling that Freed is trying too hard to pull the audience in, especially with titles such as "Sex with the Servants." But "...Servants" goes so deep, is so far-reaching, so self-examined, so multi-dimensioned and layered, that you wonder if Freed doesn't see writers as servants themselves. And in service to whom? To what? Are writers servants to their readers who want to know "Did this really happen?" "How much of this is true?" Writers are certainly not in service to the art of writing, Freed seems to argue. Most writing fails, she persuades, not because of a fickle market or a bad agent or any other reason than the writer is being public and dishonest. (Freed's previous book, a collection of stories, "The Curse of the Appropriate Man" shows the rewards of a private voice in fiction.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Rush on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In her beautifully composed book of essays about the writing life, "Reading, Writing and Leaving Home," author Lynn Freed explores three main themes. The first is, home, and how it informs and haunts the writer. In Freed's case, home, narrowly seen, is South Africa. Yet home is more than one's country of origin. Here, it includes the slightly-droopy-at-the-edges mansion in which her theatrical parents held court, and significantly, her parents themselves.

Though Freed has spent her entire adult life living in the US, her fictional characters always return "home" to South Africa. It is through revealing the landscape of her childhood that she has seen her greatest success as a novelist. Yet finding the right voice with which to expose her familiar world was initially elusive.

"For the young expat South African writer of the seventies and eighties, the perceived audience for her writing fell loosely between what I call the Out-of-Africa crowd on the one hand... and the Keepers of the Moral High Ground on the other," Freed writes. "And so, for a number of years, I occupied myself writing predictably horrified short stories placed in South Africa. They were full of fake daring, fake feeling, fake everything. And they were, of course, predictably rejected."

Not until a writing teacher encouraged her to "write about her family," did she discover the authenticity that had eluded her. Yet, with that realism came the prospect of truth-telling - her second major theme in the book.

In more than one essay, Freed explains why fidelity to subject and character in writing is more important than kindness. "The page will reveal the fake even when the writer is moving herself to tears," she states.
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