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The first issue of The Paris Review in 1953 included an interview on the craft of writing with E. M. Forster, perhaps the greatest living author of the time. Subsequent issues carried interviews with, among others, François Mauriac, Graham Greene, Irwin Shaw, William Styron, Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner; in the intervening years, many of the world's most significant writers (Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, John Updike, and John Dos Passos) sat down with The Paris Review. Many of the interviews have been collected in a series of volumes entitled Writers at Work. From these interviews, The Paris Review's editor, George Plimpton, has selected the best and most illuminating insights that the writers have provided and arranged them by subject rather than by author. The book is divided into four parts: "The Writer: A Profile" (including the sections "On Reading," "On Work Habits," On the Audi-
ence," etc.); Part II is "Technical Matters" ("On Style," "On Plot," etc.); Part III is "Different Forms" ("On Biography," "On Journalism"); and Part IV is "The Writer's Life," covering topics like conferences, courses, and teaching, along with a section in which writers provided portraits of other writers.
The Writer's Chapbook is a fund of observations by writers on writing. These range from marvel-
ous one-liners (Eugene O'Neill on critics: "I love every bone in their heads"; T. S. Eliot on editors: "I suppose some editors are failed writers--but so are most writers") to expositions on plot, character, and the technical process of putting pen to paper and doing it for a living. "I don't even have a plot," says Norman Mailer; Paul Bowles describes writing in bed; Toni Morrison talks about inventing characters; and Edward Albee and Tom Wolfe explain where they discovered the titles for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Bonfire of the Vanities.
This book is a treasure. But beware: What is true for the Writers at Work series holds for The Writer's Chapbook even more--a reader who picks it up, intending just to dip into it, might not emerge for days.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
" LSD? Nothing much happened, but I did get the distinct impression that some birds were trying to communicate with me."
" What makes me feel as though I belong here, out in this world, is not the teacher, not the mother, not the lover but what goes on in my mind when I am writing."
" It was not he [E. M. Forster] who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills, although of course one sym-
pathizes with his people if they try to wriggle out
of that trip to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves."
" You know that if I were reincarnated, I'd want to come back as a buzzard. Nothing hates him or envies him or wants him or needs him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat anything."
" I occasionally have an anti-Roth reader in mind. I think, How he is going to hate this! That can be just the encouragement I need."
" I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows."
Plimpton has collected and classified choice bits largely from interviews in the noted Writers at Work series (published by Viking Penguin). Under headings like "Work Habits," "On Theater," or "On Sex" appear the remarks of several writers, ranging from lively one-liners to longer reflections. Naturally no consensus ever emerges, making this a book one dips into rather than reads through. It is thus more likely to be purchased than borrowed. Budding creative writers seeking how-to advice would have to heed the many quotes here denying that such a thing exists, although they would be entertained and perhaps reassured by the sheer variety of opinions. Most writers and readers would find more sustenance in the full original interviews.
- Donald Ray, Mercy Coll. Lib., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Modern Library. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0679603158 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0258776
Book Description Modern Library, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110679603158
Book Description Modern Library, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0679603158