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To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction Paperback – February 12, 2013
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Lopate, a consummate and piquant essayist and director of Columbia University’s graduate nonfiction program, draws on his extensive teaching experience in this expert, anecdotal, funny, and frank guide to writing “intelligent, satisfying, engaging literary nonfiction.” Even in a how-to book, Lopate can’t help but write lithe and sparring personal essays, so we learn, for example, that he honed his chops as a ghostwriter. His sophisticated advice touches on psychological challenges as much as craft, such as when he names “self-hatred” as a “stumbling block” for writers, and, admitting his own audacity when writing about family and friends, instructs memoirists to be prepared to “accept the guilt” when people get upset. He also suggests developing a “tone of assertion.” Lopate draws helpful comparisons with fiction, noting that nonfiction also requires conflict and the “art of characterization” but that its story line is a thought process. Never one to accept received wisdom, Lopate encourages writers to go beyond the safe, facile, and sentimental. To see him practice what he preaches, turn to his newest essay collection, Portraits inside My Head. --Donna Seaman
“[To Show and To Tell] gives away all his trade secrets – a thoughtful guidebook for writers of literary nonfiction.” (New York Times Book Review)
“One of the best guides to writing nonfiction I've read.” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Sophisticated… Lopate, a consummate and piquant essayist,…draws on his extensive teaching experience in this expert, anecdotal, funny, and frank guide to writing “intelligent, satisfying, engaging literary nonfiction.” Even in a how-to book, Lopate can’t help but write lithe and sparring personal essays… Never one to accept received wisdom, Lopate encourages writers to go beyond the safe, facile, and sentimental.” (Booklist)
“One of the Earls of Essay returns with a collection that illustrates both his knowledge of the genre and his considerable skill in practicing it… A useful collection of bracing thoughts and sinuous sentences.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“At last--a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Phillip Lopate's tour of literary nonfiction includes brilliant and helpful considerations of the essay and memoir, placing them and their vexing questions in clear cultural context. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it's much more than a "craft book" for writers. It's a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensible book.” (Patricia Hampl author of The Florist's Daughter)
“Shrewd, revealing, dexterous, skeptical, provocative, restless, wry, necessary.” (Laura Kipnis author of Against Love and How to Become a Scandal)
“The work of a master, To Show and To Tell is beyond compare, for it embodies a poetics of literary nonfiction that takes into account all the crucial aspects, elements, and issues of the craft. Thus it's the essential text for anyone who seeks to enjoy, to understand, or to write nonfiction.” (Carl H. Klaus author of The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay)
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