Customer Reviews for

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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2007

    A reviewer

    Reading Like a Writer threatens to be the next On Writing Well or Bird by Bird, Theses are types of entry level books, which writing instructors require for an undergrad writing course. But this one falls short. Her canon and examples are meant to make professors nod or change, obviously avoiding and attempting to change the literature required in high school and in undergrad English programs. The list of books is a bit dated and some can really be out of touch for today's reader. As she continues on to the second half of the book her good-humored jabs and pleasant levity came less and less frequently and the prose analysis became less dynamic, then less objective, then more geared toward easily debatable opinion. This book excels over others such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Bird by Bird, in that you have the opinions of fiction from an extremely important American writer in our time. On the topic of technique, Prose breaks from the standard advice given to writers that they should 'show' action and personality instead of 'tell' through narration Prose says some of the greatest writing is telling (from a narrator's insight). She points to the opening page of Pride and Predjudice as an example of telling being wonderfully executed I point to Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude as a confirming example among my recent reads. And in the mass market, The DaVinci Code (though it would be poo-pooed by the literati) makes good use of telling, to really keep the plot moving and fast paced. I just think the problem with telling occurs when a narrator really has nothing interesting or engaging to add, or does not stay within 'the character' of the narrator, causing the telling to be simply fillerâ¿¿a construction of a lazy writer. The author must truly learn how to show before telling and that is why introductory writing material must stress this: there is just so much lazily constructed text that I think showing is a worthy goal for the beginner. The second gem of advice is the focus Prose places on crafting the perfect sentence. Learning the importance of agonizing over every word was beneficial to me and that alone made it worth purchasing this book. This is so tough to do. I was inspired and driven to increase the effort I had put into several sections for my novel and Prose's advice helped push me to the next level, so thank you Francine for that! What raised the book to a 3.75 out of 5, is the focus that Prose puts on reading quality literature while writing in order to emulate it, rather than avoiding brilliant writing so that you won't be discouraged when comparing. I add that even if you end up being pummeled to death by a writing group or a workshop through their excessively critical or conversely simple air-headed praise (where you're not even sure if they read it). I think there is an argument though that really makes for showing, in that in beginning to write you really need to know how to do both, and you for sure could see the examples (from your fiction class) where telling is an absolute cheap and easy way out of creating true tension or conflict in your work but now I'm seeing the benefits of both. I've gone through periods where I've hated reading pluperfect literature while writing because it is so discouraging, and periods where some great stuff has been soured in my eyes by one misinformed comment from a well-meaning classmate. I love reading the greats now while I'm writing, because I've given myself over to imitation. Joyceian, Bradburian and Mertonian. Why not? Go for it. If you can emulate without stealing, then you're writing really tight stuff and you're mimicking the proven techniques of the greatest writers. That's every writer's goal right? Write.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2013

    A montage of qoutes, poems, and the like.

    As long as life holds me with its deathlike grip, <br> Love is the bond that keeps me to the world l despise. <br> And whilst l bribe death with my generous tip, <br> lt wouldn't hold at bay my immenent demise. <p> <br> Wallow, wade, and smell the jade. <br> Sink, fall, then hear my calls. <p> Waste love, and make time, <br> To be near and never lie. <br> Lust life while you burn the light, <br> And hear the few when they scream their fright. <p> I'll hold you near when all the tears dry, <br> Even when the stars fall and cry. <br> I will keep a hold, always so bold, <br> And l will run to keep you from fear as it is told. <p> Together, a promise is bound, to grow old in company of time, <br> Forsaking nothing as the skies age, and the days fade, <br> For we shall live, and no span of hate shall keep our minds from being made. <p> <br> The time will come when life as you knew it in the past will be questioned by your reasoning, and you will wonder the worth of your life. You will know, then, that memories are what make you who you are-- the proof of the past in memories have made you who you are. But, though that is true, the days that count most are in the present, because of the fact that memories are made as we live, and not as we waste time remembering. <p> Live well, because no matter who you are, or how well your memories define you as, your health should have your attention most. You cannot build more memories, afterall, if you sit on regret, crippled from your mistakes. Think and do well, because a joyful heart and a developed mind are the two most influential keys to govorning today's world with successful outcome. This is the way for memories to thrive. <p> <br> Life is indeed a path, uneven and treacherously slippery. You must know, however, that there is no avoiding the slipping. The trick that many people end up learning is how to slip in the right direction, no matter the speed or the chances of landing off a cliff. Courage to move at all is essential, for you couldn't move anywhere without conviction to succeed. <p> <br> Kindness is returned with hatred when extended towards a fool, but kindness in return for kindess is a process made between two good men. <p> <br> Heed the words of many with their integrity, for the mind of one fool would do nothing more than corrupt the council of the unsure. <p> ~Meauthurist.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2007

    Sharing and Reciprocating

    Francine Prose is fine craftsman and an inspiriting writer of fiction as well as book on history and art. In this current excellent book she shares her vast experience in teaching and in communicating with students, friends, critics, writers both alive and dead, and now with us, the fortunate audience. Prose is really talking about how both she and other writers practive their craft and in doing so she shares motivational information on how to better enjoy reading: her premise is that if we understand how great works are created we will better appreciated the art of reading. Beginning with a very informative essay on the concept of reading slowly, for the words and word structures, not unlike the old pastime of reading aloud to a group, Prose seduces us into her world of complete pleasure with the written word. She early on advises us as to the writers she most cherishes - and they are legion - and then develops a manner of looking at the page over several categories of thinking. Her chapters (after 'Close Reading') are as follows: Words, Sentences, Paragraphs, Narration, Character, Dialogue, Details, and Gestures. In each fascinating chapter she shows us how different authors have successfully addressed each issue of storytelling - and the examples are fascinatingly learned. Prose ends her book with words to encourage us to go back to the classics to better serve our reading of current literature. It all works well - we leave her book hungry to read more! Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The book is called READING LIKE A WRITER

    If you are NOT a writer, don't buy this book. It has writer written all over it. Use some sense. Some of the people here on B&N are a few cards short of a deck. :-D

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  • Posted August 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Definitely a technical book.

    I really don't know why I bought this. I tend to dislike technical guides to things, and it took me months of picking up and putting down to get through this book. I very much enjoyed her literary examples and she has given me a few suggestions of what I might read next, but otherwise it was kind of dull. Once you get past the initial chapters dissecting sentences and paragraphs, things pick up a bit, but not so much that I will keep this one on my bookshelf for quick reference. I suppose it you are an aspiring writer (which I am not) it may interest you a bit more. The subtitle of the book is "A Guide For Poeple Who Love Books and Who Want To Write Them." I, being a person who loves books, thought I fell into this category. Instead of being filled with appreciation for books, I felt like some of the joy and delight of writing was sucked out of me while reading this book, turning it into a chore.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    One of the most helpful writing supplements I've found!

    "Reading Like a Writer" is a great tool for writers in almost any stage. It uses examples from relevant literature, past and present, and demonstrates techniques that the authors have used to make their writing work and flow for the reader. It teaches us how to look for these things in literature, deliberate decisions and choices that authors have made in their writing and why they work. Most of all, the teaching is easy to apply to one's own writing. It is practical and extremely helpful. I used "Reading Like a Writer" as a suggested text for a recent fiction course that I took but I think that one could use it as their own course and definitely learn a lot from it on one's own. I'm sure I will refer back to it often as time goes on.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting Read

    It is nice to have my teaching style validated by this author. She has some interesting insights. The book will be most helpful if you have read a lot of classic literature (like more modern-ish like Faulkner rather than Shakespeare). Thought provoking... sums up this book the best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    Very Interesting Approach

    I really found this book helpful and interesting to read. It not only helped me to better understand and appreciate the books that I read but it also helped me in my writing endeavors. I enjoyed her examples, though I thought that the author used too many to get her point across.

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