Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

At one point in my life, I thought I was destined to be a writer: a writer of fiction, that is. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that writing fiction was not my forte. I still love to write, but it took the direction of literary criticism (in college) and now, blogging about books.

Bloggers near and far have mentioned, at various times in the life of my book blogging career, the writing help book Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (first published 2006). Subtitled “A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them,” it was just the literary criticism reminder that I needed to retrain my reading. It reminded me to look at literature – both classics and modern literature – as the writer I’ve always dreamed of becoming. Just what, about a work of fiction, makes it a specimen of great writing?

Prolific novelist Francine Prose examines classic works of literature – both new and old – with a critical eye. She examines the word choice, sentence structure, paragraphing choices, narration techniques, methods of developing characters, the significance of dialogue, details that make a work sincere, and the gestures that add or detract from a scene. As she quotes from the great works, we come to believe her initial claim: there is no such thing as rules when it comes to what makes writing good writing.Continue Reading

August BAND Discussion: How I Came to Love Nonfiction

I saw Miss Remmers’ tweet about how she needs great nonfiction suggestions for her high school students, and this got me thinking about all the great nonfiction I’ve read in my life. And then, I realized I could actually join in the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees (BAND) discussion for August. I saw the advent of BAND in July, but I was on a blogging break and didn’t get my act together to respond to July’s question.

At any rate, here’s my story.Continue Reading

Three Plays by Tennessee Williams

The three plays by Tennessee Williams that I’ve read in the past few weeks all dealt with loneliness, the fragility of dreams, and the masks we all wear as we go through life. Given these themes, it’s no wonder a thread of discontent and depression seemed a hallmark of Williams plays. But add a stupendous talent for capturing dialogue and setting, and I found Tennessee Williams’ plays to be a candid look at human nature, from the shattered world in The Glass Menagerie, to the trapped iguana of The Night of the Iguana, and finally to the more subtle and perfectly captured frustrations the characters deal with in A Streetcar Named Desire.

I first encountered Tennessee Williams in my high school ninth grade English class, and I loved the play I read. It’s taken me 15 years to try some other plays, and I’m glad I did.Continue Reading