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Customer Review

143 of 146 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not The Typical Book On Writing, December 19, 2000
This review is from: ON BECOMING A NOVELIST (Paperback)
Before discovering a dusty old hardcover copy of John Gardner's 'On Becoming A Novelist' in an infamous New York City bookstore (Gotham Book Mart), I was under the impression that every book related to the art of writing fit into one of three catagories. Either it focused on technique (Robert McKee's 'Story'), it offered encouragement (Anne Lamott's 'Bird By Bird'), or it took memoir form (Annie Dillard's 'The Writing Life'). I was wrong.
This book is a portrait of the writer as a young man (or woman). After years of teaching creative writing courses and wallowing around the publishing industry, Gardner acquired an opinion or two (major understatement). He correctly believed that writing novels is not a profession or a pasttime for the timid, and so he outlines the prototypical writer's 'character'. The purpose, of course, is to get the young writer to ask himself if he is really cut out for this. In the course of telling you what traits a talented writer must have (verbal accuity, a discerning eye, faith, etc.), Gardner offers up some brilliant insights into the craft. His discussion ranges from writer's block to writers' conferences, and while you may not always agree with him, his views are always thought provoking and perceptive.
In the end, this book may be mildly discouraging for the would-be writer who is currently on the fence. Gardner does not sugar coat his opinions, but I am glad for that. He has no qualms in informing his readers that worthwhile writing takes a great deal of talent, and not everyone has that talent. As he says, the worst that can happen after reading this book is that you will realize you don't have the right stuff, and you will move on to something else.
In reading this book, you get the impression that he was a brilliant writing teacher, as is evidenced by perhaps his greatest student, Raymond Carver. Carver wrote the brilliant introduction to this book, which familiarizes the reader with Gardner's personality and makes it easier to put the rest of the book in perspective. I, for one, would have loved to have Gardner as a teacher. As that is no longer possible (he died in a motorcycle accident years ago), this book is no small consolation.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 10, 2013 8:52:36 AM PDT
Terri Moon says:
Very good review. Thanks!
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