On Becoming a Novelist

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9780060149567: On Becoming a Novelist

On Becoming a Novelist contains the wisdom accumulated during John Gardner's distinguished twenty-year career as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher. With elegance, humor, and sophistication, Gardner describes the life of a working novelist; warns what needs to be guarded against, both from within the writer and from without; and predicts what the writer can reasonably expect and what, in general, he or she cannot. "For a certain kind of person," Gardner writes, "nothing is more joyful or satisfying than the life of a novelist." But no other vocation, he is quick to add, is so fraught with professional and spiritual difficulties. Whether discussing the supposed value of writer's workshops, explaining the role of the novelist's agent and editor, or railing against the seductive fruits of literary elitism, On Becoming a Novelist is an indispensable, life-affirming audiobook for anyone authentically called to the profession.

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Review:

Picture the poor, young, serious-fiction writer. He toils alone at a pace not so different from that of Lincoln Tunnel traffic at rush hour in New York. His spouse has a "real" job, or perhaps he has a trust fund. His college friends are cashing in on their dot-coms and wondering if he's ever going to join the real world. He is not hell-bent on publication; he is trying to write "serious, honest fiction, the kind of novel that readers will find they enjoy reading more than once, the kind of fiction likely to survive." He's likely to have no idea whether he's succeeding. Nobody understands him.

Well, almost nobody. John Gardner understands him. Gardner's sympathetic On Becoming a Novelist is the novelist's ultimate comfort food--better than macaroni and cheese, better than chocolate. Gardner, a fiction writer himself (Grendel), knows in his bones the desperate questioning of a writer who's not sure he's up to the task. He recognizes the validation that comes with being published, just as he believes that "for a true novel there is generally no substitute for slow, slow baking." Gardner also has strong feelings about what kinds of workshops help (and whom they help), and what kinds hinder. But a full half of Gardner's book is devoted to an exploration of the writer's nature. The storyteller's intelligence, he says, "is composed of several qualities, most of which, in normal people, are signs of either immaturity or incivility." In addition, a writer needs "verbal sensitivity, accuracy of eye," and "an almost demonic compulsiveness." But wait--there's more. A writer needs to be driven, and to be driven, he says insightfully, "a psychological wound is helpful." --Jane Steinberg

About the Author:

John Gardner’s gripping James Bond novels include: Seafire, License Renewed, Icebreaker, Role of Honour, Nobody Lives Forever, No Deals Mr. Bond, and Never Send Flowers.

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John Gardner
Published by Harpercollins (1983)
ISBN 10: 0060149566 ISBN 13: 9780060149567
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John Gardner
Published by Harpercollins (1983)
ISBN 10: 0060149566 ISBN 13: 9780060149567
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