ON BECOMING A NOVELIST by John Gardner

ON BECOMING A NOVELIST

KIRKUS REVIEW

The late novelist John Gardner was also a longtime creative-writing teacher, and this small how-to book is addressed to "the beginning novelist who has already figured out that it is far more satisfying to write well than simply to write well enough to get published." Gardner begins by musing on the qualities needed to be a novelist: verbal sensitivity (though "the writer who cares more about words than about story. . . is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream"); a good eye; a storyteller's sort of "intelligence"; generosity of spirit; and "an almost demonic compulsiveness." Then, in a rather parochial chapter, Gardner examines "the benefits and dangers of going through a creative writing program"--with extended discussion of good vs. bad writers' workshops and a strong pitch for the rather sentimental workshop-notion of "community of writers." ("Even a bad workshop may be better than none.") A very brief section on "Publication and Survival" comes next, with comments on writer-relationships with publishers, agents, and family. ("Living off one's spouse or lover is an excellent survival tactic.") And finally there's a rambling sermon on having faith and avoiding writer's block, with rudimentary how-to. ("When you write a novel, start with a plan--a careful plot outline, some notes to yourself on characters and settings, particular important events, and implications of meaning.") Along the way, Gardner takes pot-shots at Barth and Updike--and refers to a few of his own novels and life-experiences by way of example; so Gardner aficionados might find a handful of rewarding pages. Otherwise: for creative-writing teachers (and budding novelists) only--and, even on those terms, a mixture of the helpful and the platitudinous.
Pub Date: May 25th, 1983
ISBN: 0393320030
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1983




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