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A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle,…
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A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic

by Peter Turchi

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With his characteristic genius for finding connections between writing and the stuff of our lives, Peter Turchi ventures into new and even more surprising territory. In A Muse and a Maze, Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle-making and its flip-side, puzzle-solving. As he teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic—the creation of credible illusion—that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. In Turchi’s associative narrative, we learn about the history of puzzles, their obsessive quality, and that Benjamin Franklin was a devotee of an ancient precursor of sudoku called Magic Squares. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process.

Review

“Turchi invites us to think about books as mysteries unfolding in time, giving us clues that we piece together.” —Washington Post

“One of the country's foremost thinkers on the art of writing....Turchi argues that writers are like magicians who aim to lead us to a state of wonder.” —Houston Chronicle

"Although Turchi’s knack for drawing connections can seem like a sleight of hand in itself, his writing is consistently engaging, lively, and thought provoking. The interactive element is also a delight, as there are actual puzzles scattered throughout (answers are provided in the back) to demonstrate the challenges and rewards offered by puzzles—and by good writing. And though Turchi’s volume seems most tailored to writers, readers and puzzle lovers should find much of value as well."—Publishers Weekly

"Altogether stimulating."—Brain Pickings

"Full of lush illustrations, embedded puzzles, and notes on Harry Houdini, Alison Bechdel, tangrams, labyrinths, and sudoku."—Fiction Advocate

About the Author

Peter Turchi's books include Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer; Suburban Journals: The Sketchbooks, Drawings, and Prints of Charles Ritchie, in collaboration with the artist; a novel, The Girls Next Door; and a collection of stories, Magician. Turchi's short story "Night, Truck, Two Lights Burning," listed as one of 100 Notable Stories of 2002 by the editors of Best American Short Stories and one of 15 Recommended Stories by the jury for the O. Henry Prize Stories, has been published in Arabic and, in English, combined with images by Charles Ritchie, in a limited edition artist's book. He has also coedited, with Andrea Barrett, A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft and The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work; and, with Charles Baxter, Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life. Turchi's stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Story, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and the Colorado Review. He has received Washington College's Sophie Kerr Prize, an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, North Carolina's Sir Walter Raleigh Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From 1993 to 2008 he directed the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Turchi recently taught at Arizona State University, where he was director of the creative writing program, and he's currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Houston.
  GalenWiley | Apr 5, 2015 |
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"With his characteristic talent for finding connections between writing and the stuff of our lives, Peter Turchi ventures into new and even more surprising territory. In A Muse and a Maze, Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle-making and its flip-side, puzzle-solving. As he teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic-the creation of credible illusion-that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. In Turchi's associative narrative, we learn about the history of puzzles, their obsessive quality, and that Benjamin Franklin was a devotee of an ancient precursor of sudoku called Magic Squares. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process"-- ""Turchi explores how every piece of writing is a kind of puzzle, offers tangrams as a model for presenting complex characters; suggests labyrinths as an alternative to the narrative line, and argues that readers and writers, like puzzle solvers, not only tolerate but find pleasure in difficulty"--Provided by publisher"--… (more)

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