Unless It Moves the Human Heart is right up there with Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, although less Zen, and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, although less confessional. It takes the form of a memoir that re-creates classes in which Rosenblatt and his students tried to answer the question: Why write?…The book is filled with humor and practical advice…
The Washington Post
Culled from his experiences teaching writing workshops, novelist, essayist, and longtime professor Rosenblatt (Making Toast) tackles the "why"--not the "how"--of writing by chronicling his winter/spring 2008 semester of "Writing Everything," wherein students discuss and write short stories, essays, and poetry. Chapters include these students' work; Rosenblatt's humor, wit, and wisdom; and classroom discussions of questions both obvious (how does a story differ from an essay?) and remarkably precise (how does James Joyce convey so much in the first sentence of "Clay" and what does it all mean?). The author repeatedly points out that he cannot teach his students to be professional writers, but rather to simply write better than they did before. Less a how-to book than a measured reflection on teaching, the work nonetheless offers aspiring writers many concrete suggestions (let your nouns do the work; go for imagination over invention; write with "restraint, precision, and generosity"). And the oft-invoked words of other authors should resonate with readers and writers alike. (Jan.)
“There is much to love and ponder within these passionate pages.”
“Roger Rosenblatt is the teacher you always wished you had... Adept and inventive, Rosenblatt encourages his students to write with moderation but think with grandiosity…Having skillfully addressed matters of style, he ends by eloquently approaching the spirit.”
“Unless It Moves the Human Heart is right up there with Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones,” although less Zen, and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” although less confessional... The book is filled with humor and practical advice…”
"There is much to love and ponder within these passionate pages."
With this slim volume, Rosenblatt (Making Toast) offers his take on the challenges and responsibilities facing would-be writers. His approach differs from other writing treatises: the chapters follow a group of students taking one of Rosenblatt's courses at Stony Brook University in New York to reveal his dictates and theories on writing short stories, essays, and poems to readers as if they were part of the class. The text is full of dialog among real students, though Rosenblatt explains in his preface that these conversations are re-creations, not direct quotations. The informal and succinct format makes this a fast read but not a simple one. Rosenblatt's students voice many of the thorny questions that trouble writers—e.g., "Do I write only for myself, or with my reader in mind?" and "Do I read other writers' work to improve my own or do I avoid this for fear of too much outside influence?" VERDICT This will appeal to readers interested in an artful take on the writing life, as well as to fans of Rosenblatt's previous works.—Stacey Rae Brownlie, Lititz P.L., PA