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The Writer's Voice (Norton Lecture Series)

Overview

Reflections on writing from a master.

For a writer, voice is the problem that never lets you go. For a reader, voice is a profound mystery. What is it? How does it develop and why should it even matter? How does the reader hear and respond to an authentic voice, and what happens when the cult of personality threatens to subvert it? These are some of the slippery questions The Writer's Voice addresses with confidence and clarity.

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Overview

Reflections on writing from a master.

For a writer, voice is the problem that never lets you go. For a reader, voice is a profound mystery. What is it? How does it develop and why should it even matter? How does the reader hear and respond to an authentic voice, and what happens when the cult of personality threatens to subvert it? These are some of the slippery questions The Writer's Voice addresses with confidence and clarity.

Aspiring young writers often confuse voice with stylishness, but the voice that matters has the whole weight of a life, however young, behind it. In this compelling book, renowned poet, author, and critic A. Alvarez defines "voice" as the vehicle by which a writer expresses his aliveness, hooks his readers, and keeps them listening. These powerful reflections from a lifetime's experience belong alongside John Gardner's The Art of Fiction, E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, and William Zinsser's On Writing Well.

Author Biography: A. Alvarez is a poet, novelist, literary critic, anthologist, and author of many highly praised books, including the New York Times bestseller The Savage God; The Biggest Game in Town; an autobiography, Where Did It All Go Right?; and New & Selected Poems. He lives in London.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Based primarily on lectures given at the New York Public Library in October 2002, this slim, erudite guide is intended to help aspiring writers achieve an authentic voice and readers to recognize it. Veteran author Alvarez (The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, etc.) adopts the preachy tone of a learned sage discussing the rigors of style, the role of literary infatuation and the merits of literary emulation. In the first chapter, Alvarez cites Sylvia Plath as an example of a poet who found her authentic voice only in the last months of her life. He goes on to discuss how to avoid mannered rhetoric and clich , and to outline the difference between writers who "carve" their work with extensive revision and those who "model" it (a distinction he borrows from Auden). The second chapter concerns the writer's (and reader's) ear and sense of rhythm, with examples from John Donne, Andrew Marvell and Shakespeare. The final chapter centers on how the reader places a writer in his or her historical context and on combating fads and trends in criticism. Here Alvarez rails against the anti-intellectualism of the beat generation, the rise of theory and the present day's "terror of elitism." Alas, Alvarez overcompensates, to the point where his own voice seems old-fashioned: full of truisms, predictable in its tastes and advice, and rather patronizing. Agent, Gillon Aitken Assoc. (Dec. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Alvarez (The Savage God: A Study of Suicide) has written a classic study of the authorial voice, of what "hooks" the reader on a given writer. Taking examples from a wide range of literature, from medieval to contemporary, Alvarez provides both an author's and a reader's view of voice and shares how he came to find his own. He investigates the connection between psychoanalytic "talking cures" and finding one's voice-leading him to compare the finding of voice with "the tricky business of becoming an adult"-and insists on the necessity of rewriting, of becoming obsessed with detail, and of listening to sounds and rhythms as if words were music. These sagacious words about finding authenticity in writing should benefit not only writers but also readers: the book is a gem. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/04.]-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393057959
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Series: Norton Lecture Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Finding a voice 15
Ch. 2 Listening 48
Ch. 3 The cult of personality and the myth of the artist 78
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