FIRST PARAGRAPHS: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers by Donald Newlove

FIRST PARAGRAPHS: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers

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Disorganized and capricious though it is, novelist Newlove's (Curranne Trueheart, 1985, etc.) little book is an ardent breeze blowing open the many different pages bound into the great book of prose-stylistics, focusing on arresting first paragraphs (to Newlove, these are the ones with immediate and in-drawing voice and clean, un-Latinate presence). With the garrulity of table-talk and the simpatico alertness of a jazz-club patron (""Wow."" Or: ""Sylvia, go on! I'm all ears,"" responding to The Bell Jar), Newlove hops from the classic to the unknown. Bleak House gets about equal treatment as Mailer's or Brodkey's brand-newest; there are startling rewrites (by ""Dr. Don"") of Updike and Fitzgerald; lightning flashes replace critical sedulousness, hitting as often as they miss (good comments on Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf, Burroughs, Bellow, Stead, Giono, Hemingway). Lit-crit, then, this really isn't--too much brio and haste (and a little too puppyish now and then; after untangling a Brodkey paragraph and finding it ultimately soggy, Newlove repairs unconvincingly: ""Genius does what it must and waits for you to grow up to its interests""). What it is, is a part of that small and valuable tradition of eccentric authorial responsa (the best of which probably still is Ford Madox Ford's The March of Literature) that ride the waves of inconsistency and vagrant taste to deliver a look into the personally needy way a writer reads. Poll working novelists and you'll likely find agreement--from the technicians of the form itself--with many of Newlove's tastes and reasons--and appreciation of the pure keen savor that words falling onto the page just right can bring on in one of their smiths.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 1992
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: St. Martin's