August 28, 2008

How Fiction Works

Have been hearing really good things about a recent book by James Wood called How Fiction Works ($14.40 only at! already available at 40% discount from publisher's price!). If you google it, you will find many reviews of the book (for example, see links below)... but it also came highly recommended from Amit Varma, whose literary tastes I trust.

Also, in addition to Virginia Woolf's great book on the art of fiction, Mystery and Manners, which I read a chapter from recently, E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel is also a good book to read on the subject. And there is Francine Prose's more recent book Reading Like a Writer.

So much to read...where's the time to write! hah! :)

I had compiled links to reviews of Wood's book ...though instead of reading all these reviews, I'm going to try to get hold of the book and read the book itself. Be more instructive and constructive! ;)

NY Magazine
Bold Type
Christian Science Monitor
Independent, UK
International Herald Tribune (originally published in the NYT)
Times, UK
Guardian, UK

Also, I had compiled a list of reviews of another book that is also about writing (not a how-to manual but thoughts about the process of writing) - Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running . Like the Boldtype review says:

For acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, the act of running and the act of writing are inextricably linked — like two sides of the same track-shaped Mobius Strip. Murakami stresses the importance of training in both disciplines, debunking misconceptions about the writerly life as he goes.”


The book artfully marries two topics that many people don't often see as going together — sports and creativity. The result is a fantastic read with broad appeal; beyond just runners and writers, What I Talk About holds inspiration for anyone who's passionate about an athletic or creative endeavor.

Seems like worthwhile reading, though I do not run and since my writing workshop ended, I have gone back to my lazy ways and not attempted writing either! Its a lot of work and needs the kind of discipline that I lack!
In Murakami's words:
"The whole process (of writing) — sitting at your desk, focusing your mind like a laser beam, imagining something out of a blank horizon, creating a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track — requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine."

Like the Boldtype review says at the end:

If you're resting on your laurels — or worse yet, your daydreams — What I Talk About will come as a rousing reminder that there's no substitute for hard work. Indeed, practice makes perfect.

Hmmm.. no laurels to rest on here - just me and my daydreams! Or as a friend calls it 'khayali pulao'.

In any case, reviews of Murakami's include:

Economist review
New York Sun review
Bookslut review
LA Times review
Telegraph review
Herald Tribune review
Complete Review
The Slate review
Newsweek review
Guardian review
Times Online review

Though I recommend that you skip the reviews and just read the book! Or go running... get some fresh air (like I need to after being at the computer the whole day!)

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