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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
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“Witty...Insightful.” (Washington Post Book World)
“a jewel of a companion…engrossing...and...daringly insightful.” (Los Angeles Times)
“The passages are…subtle and brilliant in their capture of human complexity…Prose is…a skilled…analyst of what makes them so.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Reading Like A Writer is different from the rest of the pack…[Prose’s] wise book serves as an ispirational reminder.” (Washington Times)
“Sensible, valuable and highly readable, Reading Like a Writer deserves perusal — both in and out of the classroom.” (Kansas City Star)
“Celebrates the pleasures of close reading and explores the power of well-wrought language…refreshing” (Time Out New York)
“An absolutely necessary addition to the personal library of anyone who is a writer or dreams of writing.” (National Public Radio)
“Makes a case for the rewards of reading.” (Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel)
“Prose knows when to be funny, how to wield examples, and when to stop.” (More magazine)
“Readable and illuminating…few…advice volumes offer as much insight into writing as you will find in Francine Prose’s latest book” (Capital Times)
“Prose’s guide to reading and writing belongs on every writer’s bookshelf alongside E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
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Top Customer Reviews
Prose discusses the basics, including the use of the exact word, sentence building, paragraphing, point of view, character, and dialogue. Close reading, she asserts, enables us to understand not only what the writer is stating, but also what he is implying. The subtext is often as important, if not more important, than the text itself. Throughout "Reading Like a Writer" are excerpts, some brief, some lengthy, from a variety of sources, followed by Prose's witty, insightful, and informative commentary. Why does the writer choose one particular word or phrase rather than another? How do the seemingly minor details and gestures in a scene sometimes convey more information than the characters' statements?
"Reading Like a Writer" is not a handbook or a manual. It is a love letter to the mysterious alchemy, the magic that occurs when a reader encounters a book, poem, or story that not only entertains him, but also moves and transforms him.Read more ›
As you advance through the chapters you will find examples covering the fundamentals of writing, including aspects related to narrative, plot development, characters creation, as well as the basics of sentence and paragraph structure.
Even if you have no intention at all of becoming a writer you will love this book, since it also teaches us how to have a better appreciation of what we read.
What I expected was a series of examples with analysis of what made them work or not work. There were far fewer examples than I expected, the analysis was typically slight, and there was too much extraneous material.
For example, in the chapter on "Sentences", too much of the commentary on the examples was simply effusive praise of the sentence's author. I strongly disagreed with Prose's assessment of roughly a third of the sentences cited, but she didn't provide enough analysis for me to understand her point of view (declarations of something as great is not an argument).
In the chapter on "Paragraphs", the author starts with an example from Babel's "Crossing into Poland." At first I thought it strange to be using a translated work as an example, but then she presented another translation as a counterpoint. I then thought "What a brilliant way to get examples of the effects of the differences in choices by two professional writers." However, she failed to effectively follow through. Also, I differed with her on the analysis of the passage in question: "... the highroad ... built ... upon the bones of peasants." Her analysis was that it "introduced some element of unease.Read more ›
So what to put in the new improved version? Besides an index, start with losing the references that were written before, say, 1960. It's obvious Ms. Prose loves the classics. So do I. Those writers were giants in their day. But it would be career suicide to try to write like them today, especially the overfed prose of the British writers. Today's writers have XBox, reality shows, and cellphone-texting standing by ready to steal the reader with the flick of a switch. Today's writers need to grab the reader quickly and not let go. That can't be done with 181-word sentences. This is the age of the short attention span. It is no accident that Harold Bloom has little regard for J.K. Rowling. Neither is it an accident that all the world is reading Rowling's work.
How to account for this phenomenon? Though Ms. Prose and I are nearly the same age, she has spent her life in literature while I spent mine first as an Army officer and later as an engineer. I've only been at this reading/writing game for about five years. Before you scoff, engineering and writing are more alike than they are different.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book to be incredibly helpful. Ms. Prose is clear and accessible, using excellent examples of quality writing and breaking it down into its mechanical parts, without... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Courtney A. Weber
Writers learn by reverse engineering the good writing of those. This is the kind of literature class I wish I had had in college.Published 2 months ago by Linda R
A must have for English Majors, grads, and writers. Seriously, if this book is NOT in your English professor's office on a shelf--- DON'T take their course.Published 2 months ago by E. Bass
Very helpful and engaging book with excerpts from real life situations. Slow read with some dense text, felt worth my time in the end. Lacks inspiration.Published 2 months ago by Rebe
As a writer, I found many of the points well taken, and have used them to improve my own writing. That said, it is definitely written by an academic in love with particular... Read morePublished 2 months ago by SOel Writer
Ms. Prose loves stories and conveys her love affair with story tellers in a dynamic presentation of examples from some of her favor writers. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Larry Dieli
An appreciation and guide to the art of writing and reading that is a joy to read. Prose's clear writing and incisive analysis is enhancing my reading experience immeasurably. Read morePublished 5 months ago by SBF
She gives wonderful examples of great literature. Even while still reading this book I started reading differently. Trying to think about how things are written. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer