Inspirational essays on writing—by a novelist aborning whose piece ``Envy, the Writer's Disease'' made the cover of The New York Times Book Review and led to this book. Friedman sets out to uplift the writing reader and fellow novelist-to-be by opening her veins about the hardships of writing. More often, however, she opens her mind and gives the reader interesting snippets of Freud, Krishnamurti, Jung, and other wizards of the id. Most of her references are to women writers, with Mary Shelley getting the longest play in one of the best and most original passages here, in which the main problem of Dr. Frankenstein, the monster's ``author,'' is that he must ignore his family to get his work done. Friedman finds this problem common to authors who think they must write about their families but who must ignore the family's sensibilities in order to do so. She had that problem herself, she tells us, with her neurotically overweight sister. Friedman also talks about beginner's envy of famous writers, pointing out even Shakespeare's envy (``Desiring this man's scope, and that man's art'') and cries, ``Shakespeare desired another's art? Dear Lord, whose?'' Even so, this piece, the book's opening, is its most tedious stretch. The author is far livelier on schools for writers, writer's block, her first nonfiction sale (at age 34), and the landing of the contract for this book—at which moments the agony and the ecstasy are personal indeed and less abstract than Friedman's perfectly worked out similes and deep thoughts about the writer's mind. Not exciting as literary flower-picking, and only middling on the psychology of authors. Friedman's first novel should bring a brighter bloom.
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