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Pithy, wise, and gently encouraging advice from an acclaimed fiction writer.

A demonstration of how precision, care, and hard work are the writer’s crucial tools.

McCann (Creative Writing/Hunter Coll.; Thirteen Ways of Looking, 2015, etc.), winner of a National Book Award and many other honors, draws upon 20 years of teaching to offer more than 50 brief chapters focused on all stages of the writing process. Although intended for beginning writers, the volume would be helpful to experienced writers, as well. Anyone hoping for rules, however, will instead find many lyrical aphorisms. Prose is “as close as you’ll get to dancing. Listen to it create itself.” As for plot, it must “twist our hearts in some way.” McCann sees writing as discovery of one’s self and the world: “Don’t write what you know, write toward what you want to know. Step out of your skin. Risk yourself.” Writing can begin with a philosophical idea or an obsession, but writers should be careful about becoming didactic. “You are not here,” writes the author, “to represent cultures or grand philosophies. You don’t speak for people, but with people.” Those people are invented characters, whom writers must know intimately. Details about motivations, foibles, and eccentricities all contribute to a character’s depth and credibility, even if those details do not find their way into the narrative. “What terrifies them? What do they feel most guilty about?” are among questions a writer needs to ask. Writers must read “adventurously. Promiscuously. Unfailingly” to develop an astute awareness of how narrative and sentences are built. Assuming that awareness, McCann tosses out myriad alternatives for writing issues such as structure and plot. Unlike many other writing guides, this one addresses finding an agent and editor and the “shell game” involved in getting a blurb. The author cautions against measuring one’s achievements against other writers and, refreshingly, advises, “don’t get too attached to the romantic illusions of yourself” and about the writing life. “Being a writer is not about cocaine or the White Horse Tavern.”

Pithy, wise, and gently encouraging advice from an acclaimed fiction writer.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-59080-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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