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Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (2006)

by Francine Prose

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3,6931003,387 (3.73)243
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.… (more)
  1. 00
    How Novels Work by John Mullan (ajsomerset)
  2. 00
    Lady with Lapdog and Other Stories by Anton Tschechow (sturlington)
    sturlington: Prose refers to the short stories of Chekhov extensively.
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» See also 243 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
As someone that is just getting into absorbing books, and having a tough time with my ADHD, this book helped bring to light things I hadn't learned before (before you @ me, I didn't go to college, so I'm learning on my own), and to really focus on what is being told, and in turn this book has helped me really think about authorial intent, and help me in my own writing.

I also am a musician, and I know plenty of musicians that pay attention to the same sort of steps--lines, riffs, vox, drum beat--all of which is inspired by previous songs that I pay attention to the parts of them.

This book has helped me refresh my love for literature, and I know, given the other reviews, that there are other points that I'll have to learn as well. ( )
  personalbookreviews | Sep 19, 2023 |
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 | Aug 3, 2023 |
good concept but examples were not relevant. ( )
  kwskultety | Jul 4, 2023 |
Some interesting ideas in here, but the credibility is eroded by an annoying tic. Here it is: I'm going to guess that at some point in the manuscript process, an editor asked Francine Prose if she could diversify the writers she examines in the text, and that ooh the request just bugged her so much! So she digs in her heels on examples only from white writers – AND makes a bunch of little remarks about it. It's a loss for her and the reader – both in the opportunity to read great writers, and in these super cringey comments defending 'the canon' as her generation defined it. In the end, it erodes the credibility of what she says. If she's so wrong about this, is she wrong altogether about what makes good writing? ( )
  emilymcmc | Jun 24, 2023 |
Good introduction to close reading. ( )
  mykl-s | Jun 17, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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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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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.

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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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