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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People…

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who… (2006)

by Francine Prose

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2,789732,093 (3.76)204
  1. 00
    Lady with Lapdog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov (sturlington)
    sturlington: Prose refers to the short stories of Chekhov extensively.
  2. 00
    How Novels Work by John Mullan (ajsomerset)

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"Too often students are being taught to read as if literature were some kind of ethics class or civics class--or worse, some kind of self-help manual. In fact, the important thing is the way the writer uses the language."

Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer guides us in how to get the most out of what we read. Each chapter focuses on a particular element of writing. Chapter 2, for example, covers "words":

"Every page was once a blank page, just as every word that appears on it now was not always there, but instead reflects the final result of countless large and small deliberations. All the elements of good writing depend on the writer's skill in choosing one word instead of another."

The next chapter covers "sentences":

"....sentences like Woolf's or Kliest's, like butterflies gliding from flower to flower, or those quick uppercuts like Chandler's, sentences like a poke in the ribs, or the rapid-fire sentences of Stanley Elkin or Philip Roth. But there are also wonderful sentences that take the quickest, simplest, clearest route from point A to point B."

Additional chapters analyze "paragraphs," "narration," "character," dialogue," "details," and "gesture." There's also a chapter devoted to Chekov.

Prose uses examples from dozens of stories, novels, poetry or prose, from a myriad of writers, to illustrate her points. I was impressed by the depth of her observations--from what we can glean from a simple gesture the author notes, to choices about the length of the author's paragraphs. Her commentary shows just how much lies beneath and between the words an author uses. I'm embarrassed to admit how much would have eluded me as a reader of many of the samples without her guidance. I'm planning to emulate her in my future reading.

This book is also sure to add to your TBR list from the many authors and works Prose discusses. At the very least, I'm planning to add the 13 volumes of Chekov's complete stories to my wish list. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 24, 2017 |
This just flat out isn't a good book. So many of the excerpts Prose uses, her explanations of them make it seem as if she and I had read completely different passages. This might be fun if you are a relative newbie to understanding fiction, but say if it was your undergraduate major, I would definitely say skip it. ( )
  beckyrenner | Dec 29, 2016 |
Interesting, intelligent and I enjoyed her personal touch. ( )
  Rob3rt | Mar 3, 2016 |
I love this book! I think it is a great way to look at literature for anyone! ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 22, 2016 |
Just found this under a pile of books I moved. Hmmm, don't remember when I got it. So, will have to read it.
  Greymowser | Jan 22, 2016 |
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This book is dedicated to my teachers:
Monroe Engel, Alberta Magzanian, and Phil Schwartz.
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Can creative writing be taught?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In this book — subtitled "A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them," — Prose shares how she developed her writing craft through writing and reading. She uses examples from literature to demonstrate how fictional elements, such as character and dialogue, can be mastered.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060777052, Paperback)

Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.

In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:03 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An insider's report on how professionals read and write instructs aspiring writers on the methods employed by such literary figures as Kafka, Austen, and Dickens, in a resource that draws on key examples to demonstrate the essentials of good plot and character development.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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