I have tried, as far as possible using the words of the authors themselves, to explain their craft, aiming to take readers on a journey into the concerns, techniques, tricks, flaws, and, occasionally, obsessions of our most luminous writers. from the Preface
Behind every acclaimed work of literature is a trove of heartfelt decisions. The best authors put painstaking sometimes obsessive effort into each element of their stories, from plot and character development to dialogue and point of view.
What made Nabokov choose the name Lolita? Why did Fitzgerald use first-person narration inThe Great Gatsby? How did Kerouac, who raged against revision, finally come to reviseOn the Road?Veteran editor and teacher RichardCohen draws on his vast reservoir of a lifetime s reading and his insight into what makes good prose soar. Here are Gabriel Garcia Marquez s thoughts on how to start a novel ( In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book ); Virginia Woolf offering her definition of style ( It is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can t use the wrong words ); and Vladimir Nabokov on the nature of fiction ( All great novels are great fairy tales ).
Cohen has researched the published works and private utterances of our greatest authors to discover the elements that made their prose memorable. The result is a unique exploration of the act and art of writing that enriches our experience of reading both the classics and the best modern fiction. Evoking the marvelous, the famous, and the irreverent, he reveals the challenges that even the greatest writers faced and shows us how they surmounted them.
Praise for How to Write Like Tolstoy
The highest compliment one can pay How to Write Like Tolstoy is that it provokes an overwhelming urge to read and write, to be in dialogue or even doomed competition with the greatest creative minds . . . . That Mr. Cohen is an editor, that his love of literature comes in large part from awe in the presence of better writers than he, is no small matter. His love is infectious, and regardless of how well he ends up teaching us to write, that is miracle enough. Wall Street Journal
A] perfect tasting menu . . . the homage of a passionate reader to the writers who have provided his main pastime. The Sunday Times (U.K.)
This book is a wry, critical friend to both writer and reader. It is filled with cogent examples and provoking statements. You will agree or quarrel with each page, and be a sharper writer and reader by the end. Hilary Mantel
These twelve essays are like twelve perfect university lectures on the craft of writing fiction. The professor or, in this case, author succeeds in being not only knowledgeable but also interesting, charming, and engaging. Library Journal (starred review)
Insightful . . . Cohen] escorts his readers to Iris Murdoch for sage counsel on launching a novel, to Salman Rushdie for shrewd guidance on developing an unreliable narrator, to Rudyard Kipling for a cagey hint on creating memorable minor characters, and to Leo Tolstoy for a master s help in transforming personal experience into fictional art. Booklist"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Cohen (Chasing the Sun) writes an elegant, chatty how-to book on writing well, using the lessons of many of the world’s best writers. He draws on plentiful advice from past and present literary titans, including Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Salman Rushdie, D.H. Lawrence, and the titular Tolstoy. How does a great author grab a reader, give a character life, or handle sex scenes? Cohen relates how many notable writers have grappled with character, point of view, and dialogue, as well as the element of rhythm. Using William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and other classic books as examples, he shows the many ways in which revision is useful and editors are indispensable. The process of gathering advice from prominent contemporary authors such as Francine Prose, Jonathan Franzen, and Nick Hornby gives Cohen the opportunity to tell any number of amusing, often discursive stories about great literature and authors, mixed with the writers’ own observations, which he hopes will further inspire readers and would-be writers. The advice is pleasant, and sometimes wise. Agent: Kathy Robbins, Robbins Office. (June)