An engaging and well-informed writing companion.

WHO SAYS?

MASTERING POINT OF VIEW IN FICTION

A thorough, practical guide for writers focused on the problem of point of view.

Via astute close readings of myriad literary examples, poet and novelist Zeidner argues persuasively that point-of-view decisions “are the very heart of fiction, more central and crucial than plot.” After a chapter devoted to examining first lines and first paragraphs, Zeidner considers a variety of narrative possibilities: omniscience, third-person limited, first person, telling a story from the point of view of a child—sometimes reminiscing as a grown-up—or an animal, the effect of using you or we, and the difference in point of view in fiction vs. film. She offers helpful advice for revision and ends with exercises geared to each chapter. When writers select one point of view rather than another, Zeidner maintains, they determine their relationship to their subject and their characters: “whether you’re moving toward your subject, or whether you’re moving away. Whether you’re going to encourage the reader to bathe in the character’s view of the world, or offer a complementary or even competing one.” Choosing a third-person point of view opens up “gradations with infinite possibilities,” depending on the writer’s “spectrum of closeness and distance from a character.” Zeidner cites novels in which the narrative unfolds from several characters’ views, a popular choice in contemporary fiction and one that creates a complex picture of the fictional world. She nods to the controversy over authenticity and appropriation, which she thinks largely depends on point of view. As much as she focuses on technique, Zeidner asserts that “a fiction writer’s most important tool isn’t technical. It’s profound interest in other people.” As a rich resource for further reading, the author includes hundreds of stories, novels, writing guides, and movies in her comprehensive list of Works Cited.

An engaging and well-informed writing companion.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-35611-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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