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âI 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.ââfrom the Preface
Behind every acclaimed work of literature is a trove of heartfelt decisions. The best authors put painstakingâsometimes obsessiveâeffort 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 inÂ The Great Gatsby? How did Kerouac, who raged against revision, finally come to reviseÂ On the Road?Â Veteran editor and teacher RichardÂ Cohen draws on his vast reservoir of a lifetimeâs reading and his insight into what makes good prose soar. Here are Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquezâs thoughts on how to start a novel (âIn the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your bookâ); Virginia Woolf offering her definition of style (âIt is all rhythm. Once you get that, you canât use the wrong wordsâ); and Vladimir Nabokov on the nature of fiction (âAll great novels are great fairy talesâ).
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 facedâand shows us how they surmounted them.
Praise for How to Write Like Tolstoy
âThe 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 . . . .Â 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.ââWall Street Journal
â[A] perfect tasting menu . . . the homage of a passionate reader to the writers who have provided his âmain pastime.â ââThe Sunday Times (U.K.)
âThis 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.ââHilary Mantel
âThese twelve essays are like twelve perfect university lectures on the craft of writing fiction. The professorâor, in this case, authorâsucceeds in being not only knowledgeable but also interesting, charming, and engaging.ââLibrary Journal (starred review)
âInsightful . . . [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 masterâs help in transforming personal experience into fictional art.ââBooklist
About: For anyone who has ever identified with a hero or heroine, been seduced by a strong opening sentence, or been powerfully moved by a story’s end, How to Write Like Tolstoy is a thought-provoking journey inside the minds of the world’s most accomplished storytellers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King.
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