Recently uncovered for week 10

I still have that bee in my bonnet from Monday about writers needing to be readers. So much so I pulled all of my Critical Theory books off the shelf and had a look through them. Writers need to have a basic understanding of what makes a novel worth reading.

I’m not saying that to be a writer an MFA is a requirement to be a writer. Lot’s of people are truly naturally talented and just intuitively write (they also probably spent a lot of time reading…).  Understanding what makes a novel worth reading it a worthy pursuit  That skill set takes that natural talent all really good writers must have and pushes them up to the next level.

I think of writing in the same terms I think of acting or playing the harp. Anyone with enough dedication and practice can learn how to do it. But it takes talent to be a Hemingway, a Streep, or a Ma. No one ran a marathon without learning how to walk.

This week I’m going to do two something different. I’m going to recommend some books and I’m going to put a new page on my blog where these recommendations will be permanently listed. These are all on my shelf of books I just don’t loan out:

Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose (how perfectly named!) does just what the title promises. The message that come through: Quality reading equals quality writing.

Literary Theory – A Guide for the Perplexed by Mary Klages. Straight forward and easy to digest, Klages (an English professor) gently coaxes the reader to approach the often terrifying topic of Literary Theory. This is a great little book.

Beginning Theory by Peter Barry. Comprehensive and thorough. This is an excellent book for developing a good base of understanding Literary Theory. Probably every English Lit student reads this at some point during their education. Now in it’s third edition, it’s a great reference to hold on to.

Studying the Novel by Jeremy Hawthorn is another English Lit prof staple. Less about Literary Theory (although it does cover the topic) its a comprehensive book on the novel and how to study a book rather than just read one.

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3 thoughts on “Recently uncovered for week 10

  1. As a writer, you can't learn from what you read if you read like a non-writer–that is, to learn what happens next. The key is to locate books you love, especially books similar to the kind you see yourself writing. Then you do with them what Wordsworth condemns science for, when he says, “We murder to dissect.” That's what must be done: the book must be dissected by being read multiple times, in order to study how it works. You essentially destroy something you love, but learn a great deal in the process.

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