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The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing by…

The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing (2003)

by Norman Mailer

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Reading Mailer's letters—and none of his other books as yet—was enough to convince me that he was a writer of rare talent, so the idea of reading his thoughts on writing was attractive. But "The Spooky Art" is a meandering tome that collects Mailer's conversationally presented thoughts not just on writing, which only represent about a third of the book, but on any number of subjects topical and universal. Most are essays that were published elsewhere, abridged and revised with prefaces and afterwords. And the pieces on writing are quite straightforwardly about his particular experiences instead of about the common problems writers might experience, and what to do about them. This is not to say that the book isn't interesting. But it's the kind of interesting that any book featuring the thoughts of an old, smart, boldly nonconformist man would be. I would have been better served moving directly from his letters to his most noted works. I bought his collection "The Time of Our Time" for excerpts from those. ( )
  john.cooper | Jun 5, 2015 |
Mailer’s insight to the spookiness of the “work” of writing is, at times, meandering and kooky, but ultimately hits home on some major points. Avoiding his digressions on films and other topics, this book was extremely helpful in making me feel comfortable about taking risks with my writing in order to tell the best story possible. The book seems to offer more insight than advice, but it definitely touched upon many of the aspects of writing that are difficult to explain to those outside of the literary life. ( )
  JosephJ | Dec 16, 2011 |
Pretty good. Mostly enjoyable. I've not yet read any of Mailer's novels (and how odd that I would finish this mere days after his passing!), but I figured a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author would probably have a lot to say about writing. He did, as well as having a few really sharp insights into Life.

Less enjoyable were times went he went off on other tangents, like the chapters on journalism (not very interesting, and rather dated) and film (his thoughts on which are somewhat INSANE). His writing about sex always felt "off" and uncomfortable - in part because he clearly seemed to have some significant unresolved gender issues. Then again, I suppose the shockingly casual reference to "the time I stabbed my second wife" in the middle of one chapter kind of made that plain, eh?

Still, even if I was nearly skimming it near the end of the book, there was a lot of other wisdom to be gleaned throughout. ( )
1 vote duck2ducks | Sep 4, 2008 |
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I am tempted to call this section Economics, for it concerns the loss and gain (economically, psychically, physically) of living as a writer.   
Writing is spooky.  There is no routine of an office to keep you going only the blank page each morning, and you never know where your words are coming from.  page 70
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812971280, Paperback)

In The Spooky Art, Norman Mailer discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader in a conversational tone, he draws on the best of more than fifty years of his own criticism, advice, and detailed observations about the writer’s craft.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

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In [this book, the author] discusses with signature candor the rewards and trials of the writing life, and recommends the tools to navigate it. Addressing the reader in a conversational tone, he draws on the best of more than fifty years of his own criticism, advice, and detailed observations about the writer's craft. [He] explores, among other topics, the use of first person versus third person, the pressing need for discipline, the pitfalls of early success, and the dire matter of coping with bad reviews. While [the book] offers a ... preview of what can lie in wait for the student and fledgling writer, [it] also has a great deal to say to more advanced writers on the contrary demands of plot and character, the demon writer's block, and the curious ins-and-outs of publishing. Throughout, [the author] ties in examples from his own career, and reflects on the works of his fellow writers, living and dead -- Twain, Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Updike, Didion, Bellow, Styron, Beckett, and a host of others.-Dust jacket.… (more)

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