Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 29 April 2013

"Reading like a writer" by Francine Prose (Harper Perennial, 2007)

You can't really skim through looking for neat little pearls of wisdom. You need to read the extracts (some of which are several pages long) and annotations. She begins with chapters on "Words" and "Sentences", pointing out that "Some writers can write both meticulously and carelessly, sometimes on the same page. At lazy moments, F.Scott Fitzgerald could resort to strings of clichés" (p.26) and that "many Raymond Chandler fans are more attracted to his sentences ... than they are to his detective plots" (p.48). Then she goes on to "Character" then "Dialogue", "Details" and "Gesture". She writes about breaking rules (the ones about "show, not tell" and fixed PoVs), how Jane Austen almost never uses physical gestures, how Dickens uses them as "handy mnemonic devices designed to help us to keep track of a large cast of characters" (p.228). Also there are sections about her teaching and learning experiences, and the value of slow, close reading.

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