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4.5 out of 5 stars
To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
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58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2013
I admire Phillip Lopate's work, but I was very disappointed by this book. This is essentially a collection of occasional pieces Lopate has written over the years, not a true guide to "the craft of literary nonfiction." I expected a book that was conceived as a book. I much prefer the recently released Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2013
Philip Lopate has written an insightful volume about the importance of thoughtful reflection in recalling the events of our past in the writing of memoir. The goal is to bring our hard-won wisdom to the portrait of the I-character that we re-create from distant memory that is not only reflective, but that also rings true. The chapter on retrospective analysis and double perspective of the recalled I-character, with all her strengths, frailties, bravado, high spirits and/or foolishness, was a great help to me in my current work. Throughout this very entertaining, clearly written, intelligent, thought-provoking and challenging volume, Dr. Lopate challenges us to commit to reading more books, with a more discerning eye in our selection of the works of great writers, both from the past and those writing today. This kind of extensive and purposeful reading enables us to become more accomplished writers ourselves,learning from the great writers so that we may begin to increase in confidence and craftsmanship and begin to write at the very highest level at which we are capable. Write the truth with thoughtful reflection, rather than glib stylistic gimmickry, and you will write well, he advises. And his words strike a chord that rings true. No artifice. Just the well crafted, thoughtful telling and showing of the events, places, senses,and supporting cast of characters that surround the I-character in your story of a significant period of time in your life.. I highly recommend this book.
Sheri Nelson Maclean, The Woodlands, Texas
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2013
In the chapter entitled "Imagination Thin and Thick" Lopate discusses the kinds of details that are meaningful when writing nonfiction and that it is unnecessary to add logical details that add nothing to the event. The following day, I read a book by Thomas Derr (page 34) in which Derr had written about seeing something in the refrigerator that had changed his direction and action. The stark authenticity of the moment by moment process brought me back to Lopate's words, and I realized that I now have a greater understanding of how really meaningful details enhance a piece of writing and how detail for the sake of detail is a waste.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I have been actively working on a handful of personal essays for about a year. I took this book along to a spa/writing retreat and found myself fully engaged in every chapter. I was chagrined to read Lopate's observations about typical student topics (loss of parents, friend trouble), and then bucked up to read how to cover these topics well--and much more. Great, readable advice on writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2013
the author tackles a common question of nascent writers: how to show and make a point. First of many that I have read that validates telling what you want to say. In literary writing, the convention is to skate around the idea you are presenting. Lopate is the master and a respected professor. He breaks down the craft of effective persuasive essay writing. Read it, study it. Then read it again... I am.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2014
I got TO SHOW and TO TELL: THE CRAFT of LITERARY NONFICTION, per my Professor's suggestion on the syllabus for the class I was taking at the University of Miami, FL. Anyone who is acquainted with Lopate knows that he's considered some kind of "Modern Master" of the essay. It doesn't matter whether or not you believe that. What's important is, there's a lot of information for anyone who wants to learn about the history of the essay and desires to write one. Having written a variety of prose, most recently having completed a novel, I can tell you I am baffled by the essay.
TO SHOW and TO TELL isn't a book to teach you how to write or steps on writing an essay. For that I suggest you go elsewhere and seek your lessons and support in another book. Lopate assumes you have a handle on knowing whether or not you can write and if you are a writer. He doesn't spend anytime boosting the readers ego, while they're reading and trying a become better essay writers.
In TO SHOW and NOT TO TELL, Lopate gets into craft and the history of the essay. Once you start reading you'll see like anything working for, it takes study, practice and reading the masters. This is the first book you want to start reading if you want to write essays.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2013
This is the best book I've read this year on writing from the head and the heart. Everyone trying to meet the new standards should add this one to their collectionl
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2013
Good introduction for anyone interested in improving their nonfiction writing. Takes the reader step by step through different aspects of the written word.
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on February 20, 2015
Excellent book for would-be personal essay-writers to read!! Especially for those who, like me, are psychologically (even psychoanalytically) minded! Thoughtful treatment of the primary "issues" involved in writing and publishing personal essays. Inspiring to read. And each chapter is itself a model personal essay. I have recommended this book to my friends in the New Directions program, a writing-and-critical-thinking program sponsored by the Washington (DC) Center for Psychoanalysis. -- Christine Erskine
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on April 26, 2015
Clear, I don't have to guess, allows the breaking of some stifling rules, encourages me to let go of all the finger wagging do this don't do that and just write my experience from my heart. As soon as I read that a seven year old child has only about a five hundred word vocabulary, I rewrote first person present to first person past tense and unleashed my very challenging story alive on the page. The book is written by a master teacher all writers should read. Every single word. Don't skip any.
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