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The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It…

The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes (Art of...)

by Joan Silber

Series: The Art of

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This lovely little book is one in a series published by Graywolf Press, each of which tackles the mechanics a difficult aspect of creative writing. In The Art of Time in Fiction, Silber addresses the way writers use the passing of time (slowed down, sped up, fantastical or skipping timelines wildly) to structure narrative. The series is of particular use to writers, but also for readers interested in changing the way they look at fiction. At 112 pages, it’s both charming in its brevity and extraordinarily useful. ( )
  circumspice | Mar 27, 2013 |
Time of my life (in fiction)

What a pleasure to read. This book illuminates time in fiction in a way I haven't seen done. This should be required reading in any creative writing MFA program. The different categories she creates are interesting, and not exactly what I would have picked, but still completely valid. The only time not talked about completely is fragmented or fractured time, as might be seen in some of the small-press, experimental fiction being published right now. Silber is very adept at providing examples for each type of time and explaining them well, in such a way that it doesn't matter if the reader if familiar with the examples or not. I have read many books on craft and not come across anything like this. I recommend this book to anyone writing or aspiring to write narrative prose. ( )
  Val.Killpack | Mar 20, 2013 |
A good overview in essay style. It is not a "how to" of different styles, but rather, a review of examples of literature in the different styles of "time". It is well written but shorter than I was expecting. If you enjoy reading essay style then you will be able to get some good ideas on how to apply different styles of time to your own writing. ( )
  jcpollari | Oct 21, 2012 |
I'm pretty much stunned that I actually finished up [[Joan Silber]]'s smart, no-nonsense writerly [The Art of Time in Fiction]. The subtitle cracks me up, - being 'As Long as It Takes' - I've been reading it about one chapter per month, which since there are six plus an intro. gives you some idea how long it's been knocking around my work area. I'm guessing that Silber gradually put these chapters together while teaching eager MFA students at various programs around the country. " Time draws the shapes of stories," writes Silber in her opening sentence. The first chapter investigates 'Classic Time' - 'alternating scene and summary'. In "Long Time" Silber talks about how writers can compress long periods of time into a few paragraphs or sentences, using one of my favorite passages of all time, the middle section of [To the Lighthouse] during the time, after Mrs. Ramsay's death, when the summer house stands empty except for a semi-annual visit from a local person to open the windows and sweep it out. "Switchback Time," shows how some stories are built by moving back and forth in time - [The Time of Our Singing] which I just finished recently is a powerful example of that approach. Then there is "Slowed Time" where every moment of it takes place in the present but the details are not trivial - Raymond Carver is a master of this. "Fabulous Time"- think Marquez, and all stories that go around and around and have the feel of being a little detached from regular time and yet true on a larger scale of human doings. Last "Time As Subject" - books and stories that take on the ruthlessness of time itself as a theme. I've not read much Denis Johnson, but Silber's description of one of his stories - of a person who can't stay focussed, can't keep track of time, forgets, made me interested in reading at least this one.
Silber's book is geared toward the widely read and the truly interested in writing as craft. For a new writer, her book might be useful as a heads up about the fact that the choices you make about how time passes (or doesn't) in a story matters . That it is one of the many pieces of the puzzle of putting a story together and telling it well, different stories may require different approaches. To the experienced writer, it will serve as a reminder and a comfort and maybe even as an inspiration. To the widely read non-writer it might be interesting as a window into the process. The stories and novels don't 'just happen' - the writer has to choose every aspect and even if many of the decisions happen intuitively; later, in revision all those must be examined and evaluated. It's a quiet book, not out to wow you or tell you what you should do, but to offer insights and modest commentary that illuminates how time is handled in fiction. I'm wavering between ***1/2 and ****. ( )
2 vote sibyx | Sep 7, 2012 |
The subtitle of Joan Silber's book is 'As Long As It Takes', and in this case the answer is not very long; not much over 100 pages, about novella size. Not that I weigh my books to see if I'm getting my full dollar (or £8 in my money), but it's a consideration. Much more importantly, how much value is there in those 100-odd pages? How much insight? How much originality? How many times did I nod my head and smile; or take a note? Well, here and there, but less than I would have liked. The writing is excellent when she gets to the observational stuff, but for me it was over-leavened by too many prosaic synopses, too often of books I haven't read (and I recognise that's my lack, not Ms Silber's). However, the book really came to life for me with the superb chapter on Slowed Time, with a couple of fabulous examples and crackling commentary. That section alone is worth my hard-earned cash. ( )
  Davidgnp | Jun 24, 2011 |
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