WHY I WRITE by Will Blythe


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Twenty-five fiction writers answer the former Esquire literary editor’s question: why do you write? Blythe, now fiction editor at Mirabella, envisions this anthology as a counterpoint to the flood of how-to books that assume “some odd, unspoken consensus that imaginative writing is an activity well worth pursuing.” His larger question, then, is why should anyone write. Ultimately, there’s no better answer than the entertaining diversity of the answers we get here, which are various as snowflakes. They range from the high-minded (Richard Ford champions literature in the age of Seinfeld) to the flippant (Stephen Wright repeats for four pages “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”). Norman Mailer, uncharacteristically humble and brief, writes to feel “a quintessential religious emotion.” Mark Jacobson writes for the money, and “to dis Dad.” Others, like Terry McMillan, write for deliverance: “This writing stuff saved me.” The tone ranges from Thom Jones’s profane rant against the “blow job” method of career advancement to the pained embarrassment of a perpetually blushing Amy Hempel to Pat Conroy’s unabashed song of himself (“When I write a book, I move with all the magic of language toward a fixed star, offering a present of my troubled, violent spirit”). Among the most affecting are Ann Patchett’s heartfelt tribute to Alan Gurganus (in which she admits wanting to write because of the elegant, cultured figure cut by Gurganus when he taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence) and Mark Richard’s essay, which reads like a novel outline and details the safe haven books provided in his difficult childhood. There’s useful advice beneath the inspiration, too: Rick Bass’s “Why the Daily Writing of Fiction Matters” should be required reading in all creative writing workshops. By turns cantankerous and dreamy, and an inspiration to writers and readers alike—a living monument to the vitality and value of the writing life.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-316-10229-6
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998