Well, almost nobody. John Gardner understands him. Gardner's sympathetic On Becoming a Novelist is the novelist's ultimate comfort food--better than macaroni and cheese, better than chocolate. Gardner, a fiction writer himself (Grendel), knows in his bones the desperate questioning of a writer who's not sure he's up to the task. He recognizes the validation that comes with being published, just as he believes that "for a true novel there is generally no substitute for slow, slow baking." Gardner also has strong feelings about what kinds of workshops help (and whom they help), and what kinds hinder. But a full half of Gardner's book is devoted to an exploration of the writer's nature. The storyteller's intelligence, he says, "is composed of several qualities, most of which, in normal people, are signs of either immaturity or incivility." In addition, a writer needs "verbal sensitivity, accuracy of eye," and "an almost demonic compulsiveness." But wait--there's more. A writer needs to be driven, and to be driven, he says insightfully, "a psychological wound is helpful." --Jane Steinberg
Few, if any, American writers in our time understood the theory and practice of great literature better than novelist John Gardner. With imagination and breathtaking dedication, he trained a generation of young writers to reach for the highest artistic standards. That legacy is contained in "On Becoming a Novelist," one of the essential books for any writer's library. -- Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of "Middle Passage"
John Gardner taught me how to write. I've read this book countless times, underlined it in many different inks, taught it, quote it, write by it. . . . Alone in my basement after my day job, I pawed through "On Becoming a Novelist," hoping to understand what it was I was trying to achieve, and why. John Gardner answered these questions and many more--and still does. Currently there are a number of popular writing guides--all worthwhile I'm sure--but there's no substitute for experience and the hard work of composition. John Gardner put in countless hours at his desk sweating over the depth, generosity and elegance of his fiction. That after his death he continues to share his practical knowledge with us is a gift. -- Stewart O'Nan, author of "A Prayer for the Dying" and "A World Away"
John Gardner's book is worth a thousand pictures of the writer writing--bemused, puffing a pipe, one hand on the keyboard, one in his hair. John was a devoted teacher, and those of us who witnessed his generous attention must be grateful for these pages and his enduring example. "On Becoming a Novelist" evokes the life of the writer, the student, the teacher, as few other documents can. -- Nicholas Delbanco, author of "Old Scores"
There are three books I keep on my desk so that I'll have them at the ready at any given moment in my writing life: the Bible, Roget's Thesaurus, and "On Becoming a Novelist." There is no better book on what it takes to be a writer than Gardner's classic. Period. -- Bret Lott, author of "Jewel"