Writers reflect on the reasons they write.
Compiled from 30 years' worth of lectures first presented by Literary Arts in Portland by well-known authors, the editors of Tin House have taken the best thoughts and comments and placed them in a single anniversary edition. The volume includes commentary from E.L. Doctorow, who reflects on his childhood and the roundabout way he came to writing. Russell Banks ponders the intricate relationship between an author and a reader, where the reader not only praises the author, "that shyly offered gift," but goes on to identify the "circumstances and conditions under which the book was read." In her acerbic style, Margaret Atwood gives a detailed analysis of what a novel is not: It’s not a textbook or political treatise, a how-to-survive-and-thrive-in-life guide or a musing on morality. “Novels are made of language, and language, being human is messy. In short,” she writes, “the novel is ambiguous and multifaceted, not because it is perverse…but because it attempts to grapple with what was once referred to as the ‘human condition.’ ” Far more than a compendium of dreary “this is how and why I write” essays, these force readers to re-examine the ways they interact with words. The rhythm of syllables as they play against each other on the page and the way fiction, in particular, can transport us out of the here and now helps readers gain perspective and aids in our understanding of the world. "Fiction is narrative freed from the standard of literal truth,” writes Marilynne Robinson. “In effect, it is the mind exploring itself, its impulse to create hypothetical cause and consequence." Other contributors include Wallace Stegner, Ursula K. Le Guin and Chimamanda Adichie.
With eloquence and grace, highly acclaimed authors ponder the complexities of the writer's life and art form.