To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

by Phillip Lopate
     
 

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A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay.

Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of

Overview

A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay.

Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News). Here, combining more than forty years of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, he brings us this highly anticipated nuts-and-bolts guide to writing literary nonfiction. A phenomenal master class shaped by Lopate’s informative, accessible tone and immense gift for storytelling, To Show and To Tell reads like a long walk with a favorite professor—refreshing, insightful, and encouraging in often unexpected ways.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Morris Dickstein
…a thoughtful guidebook for writers of literary nonfiction that could serve as a commentary on [Lopate's] essays. It threads its way around the pitfalls of personal writing: the need to turn oneself into a character; to write honestly, assertively about friends and family; and to find exactly where and how to sign off…Lopate's sensible advice, like his own practice as a writer, often conflicts with received wisdom.
New York Times Book Review
“[To Show and To Tell] gives away all his trade secrets – a thoughtful guidebook for writers of literary nonfiction.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“One of the best guides to writing nonfiction I've read.”
From the Publisher
“[To Show and To Tell] gives away all his trade secrets – a thoughtful guidebook for writers of literary nonfiction.”

“One of the best guides to writing nonfiction I've read.”

“Sophisticated… Lopate, a consummate and piquant essayist,…draws on his extensive teaching experience in this expert, anecdotal, funny, and frank guide to writing “intelligent, satisfying, engaging literary nonfiction.” Even in a how-to book, Lopate can’t help but write lithe and sparring personal essays… Never one to accept received wisdom, Lopate encourages writers to go beyond the safe, facile, and sentimental.”

“One of the Earls of Essay returns with a collection that illustrates both his knowledge of the genre and his considerable skill in practicing it… A useful collection of bracing thoughts and sinuous sentences.”

“At last—a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Phillip Lopate's tour of literary nonfiction includes brilliant and helpful considerations of the essay and memoir, placing them and their vexing questions in clear cultural context. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it's much more than a "craft book" for writers. It's a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensible book.”

“Shrewd, revealing, dexterous, skeptical, provocative, restless, wry, necessary.”

“The work of a master, To Show and To Tell is beyond compare, for it embodies a poetics of literary nonfiction that takes into account all the crucial aspects, elements, and issues of the craft. Thus it's the essential text for anyone who seeks to enjoy, to understand, or to write nonfiction.”

author of The Florist's Daughter - Patricia Hampl
“At last—a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Phillip Lopate's tour of literary nonfiction includes brilliant and helpful considerations of the essay and memoir, placing them and their vexing questions in clear cultural context. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it's much more than a "craft book" for writers. It's a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensible book.”
author of Against Love and How to Become a Scandal - Laura Kipnis
“Shrewd, revealing, dexterous, skeptical, provocative, restless, wry, necessary.”
author of The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay - Carl H. Klaus
“The work of a master, To Show and To Tell is beyond compare, for it embodies a poetics of literary nonfiction that takes into account all the crucial aspects, elements, and issues of the craft. Thus it's the essential text for anyone who seeks to enjoy, to understand, or to write nonfiction.”
Booklist
“Sophisticated… Lopate, a consummate and piquant essayist,…draws on his extensive teaching experience in this expert, anecdotal, funny, and frank guide to writing “intelligent, satisfying, engaging literary nonfiction.” Even in a how-to book, Lopate can’t help but write lithe and sparring personal essays… Never one to accept received wisdom, Lopate encourages writers to go beyond the safe, facile, and sentimental.”
Kirkus Reviews
One of the Earls of Essay returns with a collection that illustrates both his knowledge of the genre and his considerable skill in practicing it. Some of these pieces have appeared earlier, and they range in nature from struggles to define the genre, to pedagogical strategies he's tried (and recommends), to reviews of the essays of other writers--living (Ben Yagoda, whose chin is the target for some Lopate left hooks) and not (Lamb, Hazlitt, James Baldwin). Lopate (Graduate Nonfiction/Columbia Univ.; At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, 2010, etc.) is both at ease and ill at ease with the definitions of "creative nonfiction," "memoir" and "lyric essay," and he continually revisits his discomfort. He confesses that he's neither a philosopher nor a professional rhetorician, so he sometimes has difficulty articulating precisely what he means. Most readers will disagree. Lopate also repeatedly uses moments from his own classroom to illuminate his points, mentioning struggles that students have finding a "voice," defining the "I" they will use, figuring out how to organize and how to end a personal essay. He urges all to ignite the curiosity and follow its flames. In the piece "The Essay: Exploration or Argument?" he somewhat softens his earlier view that the personal essay contains no argument. We learn that he's kept a journal since age 17 and that he recognizes, though grates, at the lower status nonfiction inhabits in academe. He takes a little poke at Facebook (though he fears no real evil from it) and expresses great admiration for Emerson and Baldwin, "the most important American essayist since the end of World War II." A useful collection of bracing thoughts and sinuous sentences.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451696325
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
02/12/2013
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
221,033
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

author of Against Love and How to Become a Scandal - Laura Kipnis
“Shrewd, revealing, dexterous, skeptical, provocative, restless, wry, necessary.”
author of The Florist's Daughter - Patricia Hampl
“At last—a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Phillip Lopate's tour of literary nonfiction includes brilliant and helpful considerations of the essay and memoir, placing them and their vexing questions in clear cultural context. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it's much more than a "craft book" for writers. It's a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensible book.”
author of The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay - Carl H. Klaus
“The work of a master, To Show and To Tell is beyond compare, for it embodies a poetics of literary nonfiction that takes into account all the crucial aspects, elements, and issues of the craft. Thus it's the essential text for anyone who seeks to enjoy, to understand, or to write nonfiction.”

Meet the Author

Phillip Lopate is the author of more than a dozen books, including three personal essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Waterfront. He directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

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