You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes.

Thoughts on writing—his own and a healthy selection from those he admires—from the late Stegner (Marking the Sparrow’s Fall, 1998, etc.), who along his protean way started the Stanford Writing Program.

Stegner (1913–93) is not especially concerned here with how to write but rather with what to get at when writing: “an artifact, something shaped and created and capable of communicating whatever wisdom it has arrived at.” In these eight essays, one of which includes the short story “Goin’ to Town,” he makes no bones about the seriousness of the matter. There’s no place for the pretentious or the vain, for a piece of fiction is “a trial of the writer's whole understanding and a reflection of his whole feeling and knowing”; the writer is “a vendor of the sensuous particulars of life, a perceiver and handler of things,” on a search for meaning, wonder, discovery, involvement. This comes out of life, experiential and inspiriting; the writer arrives at something to say of value and insight, takes the chaos of reality and works it into the picture without blurring the artistic frame: distilled, sharpened, purified. When teaching, “encourage the will to explore, plus impress upon the inexperienced a few of the dos and don’ts . . . certain tested literary tools and techniques and strategies and stances and ways of getting at the narrative essence.” To give advice, Stegner calls up the heavy artillery: Conrad, Frost, Hemingway. Sometimes he’s high on imagery (“like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting,” writes Frost), other times he extols the value of practice and rewriting, cutting the prose clean, honing the exigent art of seeing straight, taking what you want to say and stating it with the aim of “communicating not only its meaning but its quintessential emotion, the thing that made it important to you in the first place.”

You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-14-200147-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2002



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




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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