Friday, July 18, 2008

For people who love literature

Reading like a writer is an examination of famous authors and their method of writing. The subtitle, actually, is a very good description of her book: "a guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them." But you really need to get pleasure from the written word to enjoy this book.

Francine Prose explains the importance of "close reading," or reading word by word and paragraph by paragraph. That may take precious time away from some people's lives. But it doesn't bother me because that’s how I read in the first place. I've never gotten into the knack of speed reading, always thinking that I'd miss something important (this wasn‘t helpful in college, but I‘m long past those days.) I like how words sounds, so whether I'm reading aloud to myself, or in my mind, I enjoy hearing the words. Prose confesses that her writing, like reading, "was done one word at a time, one punctuation mark at a time."

The book is divided into chapters using different elements of composition, including words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details and gestures. Taking sections from her favorite classic books, she illustrates how writers make their stories so compelling. One thing I think she overlooks is the abundance of new writers in the late 20th century.

I think my favorite chapter was on gesture. I never thought too hard about why I liked one character over another before reading this book. Prose gives good examples of gestures that can be assigned to different characters. She also suggests that if you are trying to write, you need to observe people and jot down what you see.

Prose has taught literature and writing for over 20 years at major universities and is an author of 14 books of fiction. She believes we learn to write "by practice, hard work, by repeated trial and error, success and failure, and from the books we admire." I enjoyed her list of "Books to be Read Immediately." At least, I'll remember to check the titles, the next time someone recommends a book to me.


A Keeper's Jackpot said...

Haha! I definitely speed read/skim, realize I don't know whats going back, have to go back and read some more.... I think I mastered the skim technique in college and never learned how to slow back down...

Lily - Tulip's Talking from the said...

Reading is a favorite pastime, however I enjoy writing even more so.

I know what Prose means by gestures, I enjoy "feeling" what I read in blogs for example and I think my responses reflect that sometimes.

At the request/insistence of my DSMIL who feels she has her reasons, I have begun reading (with very little time) "A Man Named Dave, A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness", by Dave Pelzer.


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