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The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers Paperback – February 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; First Thus edition (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452282314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452282315
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In The Art of Nonfiction, Ayn Rand spends six pages explaining why something she wrote about the launching of Apollo II is far superior to something Loudon Wainwright wrote about it; throughout the book, she uses her own work as examples of exemplary writing. Somehow, though, Rand's robust ego is less unbearable here than it is in, say, her Art of Fiction.

This book is a frank demystification of the writing process that originated as a series of lectures given in 1969 to friends and other potential contributors to Rand's magazine, The Objectivist. "Any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction," Rand declares. All you need "is what you need for life in general: an orderly method of thinking." Rand values clarity above all else in nonfiction writing, and it is her own clearheadedness that makes this book appealing. Within these pages, Rand discusses subject and theme, audience, philosophy, outlines, writing, and editing. She takes swipes at The New Yorker for its "'brilliant' essays that say nothing," and at William Buckley, whose "trademark is to use words he probably spends half his time looking up in the dictionary." She rails against disruptions ("When I was writing Atlas Shrugged, I accepted neither day nor evening appointments, with rare exceptions, for roughly thirteen years"). And she is an exacting taskmaster who demands that you not choose a lesser aspect of a subject than "the deepest one that interests you and that you can do." Finally, says Rand, you must write from a position of complete confidence and omnipotence. "While you are writing," she says, "you must be God's perfect creature (if there were a God)." --Jane Steinberg

From Library Journal

In 1969, Rand gave a series of lectures to followers who wished to write for her Objectivist magazine. Best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand later wrote extensively on the philosophy that underlay her fiction. This is a transcript of her lectures on writing nonfiction, edited by Rand scholar Mayhew, who previously edited Rand's Marginalia. Though frequently sound, Rand's advice is obscured by philosophical jargon and has little to offer to the general reader seeking guidance on how to write. Moreover, readers may be put off by Rand's dogmatic style, her use of examples from her own writing, and her assumption that readers share her political beliefs. One of Rand's more helpful hints is to avoid misleading titles; given her view of writing as a technical process that anyone can learn, the editors clearly ignored her advice. Recommended for libraries where there is strong interest in Rand's life and work. Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most important she is dealing with my fears.
Patricia W. Golde
The Art of Nonfiction is taken from a series of informal lectures that Ayn Rand gave to students in 1969 on the topic of the art of nonfiction writing.
Mark Eckenrode
This book takes the aspiring writer step-by-step through the process showing him how to organize his thoughts and communicate them clearly.
Betsy Speicher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Betsy Speicher on January 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book takes the aspiring writer step-by-step through the process showing him how to organize his thoughts and communicate them clearly.

It is loaded with practical advice on how to choose a subject and theme, judge one's audience, apply philosophy without preaching it, create an outline, write a draft, and edit. Ayn Rand is empathetic and reassuring to a writer having difficulties and she offers solutions for problems of self-doubt, writers block, transitions, style, how to get ideas for writing, and many more.

Editor Mayhew has done an excellent job of translating Ayn Rand from the spoken word to the written page and has brought her passion for ideas and for writing alive again.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Jean-Francois Virey on April 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
"You are not writing for the cause, for humanity, for posterity. You are writing because you *want* to write; and if you do not want to, you do not have to, neither today not ever. Remind yourself that it is all for your own happiness, and if you truly dislike the activity, do not try it. Writing is too difficult to do with a half-intention." - Ayn Rand.
Books that purport to teach you how to write abound, so why pick Ayn Rand's?
First, she herself was a master of the art of writing. And just as the unequaled excellence of *The Fountainhead* and *Atlas Shrugged* should make anyone curious to read *The Art of Fiction*, her demonstrated ability to combine logic with emotional power in countless articles is the best recommendation one could find for the present volume. *The Art of Nonfiction* is a reliable guide for the same reasons that books on martingales written from a trailer are not.
Second, not only was Ayn Rand an experienced and highly talented non-fiction writer, but she also had the kind of mind that enabled her to make sense of her ability. Just because someone can do something does not mean he can explain how he does it. Dogs can catch balls, but they are poor teachers of ballistics, and many writers, when it comes to explaining their art, are no better.
What makes Rand a first-rate teacher of the art of non-fiction is first of all her epistemology. The author of *An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology*, Rand developed a theory of concepts which she summarizes here in very simple terms: "only concretes exist... abstractions are merely a method of classifying concretes".
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kevin W. Parker on February 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a much better book than I expected. Gone is the stern, hectoring martinet of rationality and free enterprise that one usually encounters in her articles. Instead, we have a conversation with a particularly astute and self-aware writer revealing how she goes about her business. In twelve chapters she covers the basic issues: choosing a subject, addressing one's audience, creating an outline, writing the first draft, editing, and so on. She has definite notions on the functioning of one's conscious and subconscious minds, which she delineates in detail. She even covers the issue of writer's block, which she calls "the squirms."
Overall, she endeavors to take the mystery out of writing, emphasizing that there is nothing mystical about it: If one can write grammatically one can eventually succeed at writing coherent articles through dint of practice and following certain basic principles, which she shares.
It's too soon to say just how useful I found this book, but it definitely has potential and is worth reading for its distinctive way of addressing writing.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Provenzo on April 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'll admit it-for a long time I lost my writing "mojo." I went from being founder and editor of a fortnightly student newspaper in my college days that could write in his sleep to, well, a non-writing mook.
Why? Basically I gave my brain an impossible order. I commanded it to write the definitive, great article that would answer all questions, assuage all doubts, conquer all foes, (and hell, shame all competition). Where others had failed, I would succeed. Sure, I knew better, but deep in the back of my mind, that's the order I gave myself. And now I have a great blank paper collection to commemorate that period.
"The Art of Nonfiction" has been key to helping me put an end to that self-imposed writer's block. Novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, in a series of informal lectures on non-fiction writing that have been adapted to make up this book, explains once and for all the thought that goes into good writing. With her trademark clarity, Rand covers all the bases, from choosing one's subject, to managing one's editing and style. She does this not in a way that reads like a "do this because" lecture that one would promptly ignore, but in a way that makes simple, no-nonsense sense. These are guides you'll follow.
If writing clear, persuasive essays is your aspiration, this book provides you with a practical blueprint. Happy writing!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Kerns on August 8, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As with so much of Ayn Rand's writing, she takes on an issue (in this case, nonfiction writing) that seems hopelessly complex, and then explains it with such clarity that you're left wondering what all the confusion was about in the first place. If you're stuck in your writing, even if you've never read anything by Rand before, this book is priceless.
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