Some Notes on Francine Prose

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I've heard the name, I've never read a book by her until now, and I'm struck with the impression that that is probably a real shame.

Reading Like a Writer subtitled A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them is every bit the splendid guide that the one might think.

The first, most impressive thing Ms. Prose does is to encourage the reader to slow down and to read carefully and deeply--to savor the book that they are reading. Problem is, as good as that advice is, it's terribly difficult to follow in a book as fine as this. I've tried, believe me, I've tried, and I've succeeded to the point where I haven't devoured the whole thing in a day. Nevertheless, I've failed.

Ms. Prose offers some pointers and some pointed advice contradictory to much you may have heard about the writing life. In addition, she provides observations on the academic life that are wonderful. For example:

fromReading Like a Writer
Francine Prose

Alternately, I would conduct a reading seminar for MFA students who wanted to be writers rather than scholars, which meant that it was all right for us to fritter away our time talking about books rather than politics or ideas.


You can assume that if a writer's work has survived for centuries, there are reasons why this is so, explanations that have nothing to do with a conspiracy of academics plotting to resuscitate a zombie arm of dead white males.


Part of a reader's job is to find out why certain writers endure.

Ms. Prose goes on to inform us that contrary to what we were often taught in school, our job as readers is not so much to form an opinion about a book as to thoroughly explore it and enjoy it. Sometimes these two things come together, but more often than not, we allow the inner critic to rob us of some of the joy that can come from sitting back and letting the writer lead us where he or she will. Throughout the book there are references to writing as music or art; the writer as a conductor who orchestrates all the pieces of a work to result in the grand finale, a coda that encourages a slowing of pace and a gradual dimenuendo.

I haven't finished the book yet. But its advice is helping me enjoy the enforced slow pace of reading Georgette Heyer. I am far better able to appreciate some of the subtleties of prose, plot, and character even if in a frothy, light-hearted romp.

If you are interested in writing or reading, this book is an important must-have for your collection.

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I have been interested in this book. Thanks for the preview. :-)

Dear Julie,

It's likely to be traumatic for rapid, omnivorous readers--beware! ;-D




It sounds really interesting! Thanks, Steven. :)

Luckily, Jesus of Nazareth has been helping me along in advance of this ... so maybe I won't be too traumatized! :-D

Dear Julie,

Uncanny how very similar some of our tastes and trials.


I find myself immediately wanting to go back and read it again, more slowly. It is indeed worthwhile.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 26, 2007 7:33 AM.

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