book review: reading like a writer

I do have a bit of a weakness for books about writing. I read one every couple of months though I do try not to buy any. The last one I read was Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. She’s an advocate of close-reading and very “literary” in well, the most pretentious sense of the word. The book is set up to talk about precise word choices and how paragraphing is so individual to a given writer and all this stuff that made me glad I didn’t take too many English courses in university.

It made me feel bad for not loving sentences. I mean, I don’t love sentences. I love ideas and I don’t usually get off on exquisitely crafted individual bits (especially if they go on forever). Maybe it’s my science fiction showing but I don’t mind a bit of artlessness to writing if the metaphors that are there are good and it’s doing something interesting beyond fancy scrollwork. I mean, Vonnegut was supposedly a one-draft writer. He’d throw forty copies of the same page in the trash but once it was how he wanted it that’s how it was. And it doesn’t feel like the things she was talking about. And that’s sort of covered in her book too. I mean, it’s not like all the examples were florid stuff, but in general it felt like a book that would turn its nose up at Vonnegut.

But the book was good to read for my next pass through my book in an attempt to get beyond pure transcription. So yeah, this was a book I didn’t much like but was probably a good one for me to read.

4 thoughts on “book review: reading like a writer

  1. :…don’t usually get off on exquisitely crafted individual bits (especially if they go on forever). Maybe it’s my science fiction showing but I don’t mind a bit of artlessness to writing…”

    A good writer can manage a great theme, plot ideas, characters and metaphors…and still write great sentences; she also went on to paragraphing. Do you know what you are talking about?

  2. I sure do know what I’m talking about: my impressions of a book about writing. Impressions which aren’t contradicted by your comment, especially not to a degree warranting such a hostile question.

  3. Sorry! You are right, my comment was not warranted.

    You mention in your reply, that you know what you are talking about. What’s your writing background? I myself have only made a living as a technical writer, and my work has only shown up in spec’s, sitting on shelves in various Public Work’s departments, with bits and pieces to be re-hashed.

    I’m a sci-fi/fantasy fan myself, but have only read some of the currents, such as: Brooks, Anthony, Goodkin and Williams. I want to check out a classic, such as: Clarke, Heinlein or Asimov; if you could recommend a good read, something sci-fi(or a good how to write book), that would be nice. Although, you may feel I don’t derserve one of your recommendations.

  4. Full of apologies. After I hit submit, I decided to look further at your blog. Cool, I like your writing background. I’m jealous!

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