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Making an Elephant: Writing from Within

by Graham Swift

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
993238,537 (3.46)7
FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF LAST ORDERS AND MOTHERING SUNDAY, and reissued for the first time in Scribner, a brilliant collection of essays, as well as brand new material, that will delight and intrigue readers. In Making an Elephant, Graham Swift brings together a richly varied selection of essays, portraits, poetry, and reflections on his life in writing. Full of insights into his passions and motivations, and wise about the friends, family, and other writers who have mattered to him over the years, this is a revealing and intimate collection. Kazuo Ishiguro advises on how to choose a guitar, Salman Rushdie arrives for Christmas under guard, and Ted Hughes shares the secrets of a Devon river. There are private moments, too, with long-dead writers, as well as musings on history and memory that readers of Swift's novels will recognize and love. Praise for Mothering Sunday: 'Bathed in light; and even when tragedy strikes, it blazes irresistibly... Swift's small fiction feels like a masterpiece' Guardian  'Alive with sensuousness and sensuality ... wonderfully accomplished, it is an achievement' Sunday Times 'From start to finish Swift's is a novel of stylish brilliance and quiet narrative verve. The archly modulated, precise prose (a hybrid of Henry Green and Kazuo Ishiguro) is a glory to read. Now 66, Swift is a writer at the very top of his game' Evening Standard 'Mothering Sunday is a powerful, philosophical and exquisitely observed novel about the lives we lead, and the parallel lives - the parallel stories - we can never know ... It may just be Swift's best novel yet' Observer… (more)
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To non-native speakers of English, the expression "making an elephant" immediately calls to mind the proverb, which, rendered into English would read "making an elephant out of a fly" from Latin elephantem ex musca facere which means to exaggerate the importance of something trivial.

Although it can hardly have been the author's intention to suggest that meaning, unfortunately that meaning presents itself very persistently while reading this book. It is Graham Swift's first volume of miscellaneous writings, some autobiographical sketches, some literary criticism, some interviews, and 50 poems etc. Although the interviews themselves are quite insignificant, they nonetheless serve to define Graham Swift as a contemporary of writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Caryl Phillips and Patrick McGrath.

Many pieces are quite uninteresting, and speak entirely for themselves. Nonetheless, and quite unprecedented, each piece of writing is preceded by an introduction of three to five pages! Utterly superfluous, verily making a mountain of a molehill. ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 2, 2012 |
I had largely given up on this author after 'Last Orders' but following my policy of picking up one random book each library visit I have changed my mind. I am really enjoying this and his insights into writers and writing. I will go back to his back list. ( )
  adrianburke | Sep 4, 2010 |
For anyone who read and liked WATERLAND by Graham Swift, a must read. Non-fiction including previously published articles, interviews (with Swift himself and with Swift as the interviewer). Talks about the process of writing and how 'place' becomes part of a piece of writing. ( )
  booksx2 | Oct 2, 2009 |
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FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF LAST ORDERS AND MOTHERING SUNDAY, and reissued for the first time in Scribner, a brilliant collection of essays, as well as brand new material, that will delight and intrigue readers. In Making an Elephant, Graham Swift brings together a richly varied selection of essays, portraits, poetry, and reflections on his life in writing. Full of insights into his passions and motivations, and wise about the friends, family, and other writers who have mattered to him over the years, this is a revealing and intimate collection. Kazuo Ishiguro advises on how to choose a guitar, Salman Rushdie arrives for Christmas under guard, and Ted Hughes shares the secrets of a Devon river. There are private moments, too, with long-dead writers, as well as musings on history and memory that readers of Swift's novels will recognize and love. Praise for Mothering Sunday: 'Bathed in light; and even when tragedy strikes, it blazes irresistibly... Swift's small fiction feels like a masterpiece' Guardian  'Alive with sensuousness and sensuality ... wonderfully accomplished, it is an achievement' Sunday Times 'From start to finish Swift's is a novel of stylish brilliance and quiet narrative verve. The archly modulated, precise prose (a hybrid of Henry Green and Kazuo Ishiguro) is a glory to read. Now 66, Swift is a writer at the very top of his game' Evening Standard 'Mothering Sunday is a powerful, philosophical and exquisitely observed novel about the lives we lead, and the parallel lives - the parallel stories - we can never know ... It may just be Swift's best novel yet' Observer

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