Writing Theory and Practice

The Paris Review Interviews, I by The Paris Review

How do great writers do it? From James M. Cain's hard-nosed observation that "writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It's not all inspirational," to Joan Didion's account of how she composes a book--"I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm"--The Paris Review has elicited some of the most revelatory and revealing thoughts from the literary masters of our age. For more than half a century, the magazine has spoken with most of our leading novelists, poets, and playwrights, and the interviews themselves have come to be recognized as classic works of literature, an essential and definitive record of the writing life. They have won the coveted George Polk Award and have been a contender for the Pulitzer Prize. Now, Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch introduces an entirely original selection of sixteen of the most celebrated interviews. Often startling, always engaging, these encounters contain an immense scope of intelligence, personality, experience, and wit from the likes of Elizabeth Bishop, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Rebecca West, and Billy Wilder. This is an indispensable book for all writers and readers.

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The Paris Review Interviews, II by The Paris Review

Since The Paris Review was founded in 1953, it has given us invaluable conversations with the greatest writers of our age, vivid self-portraits that are themselves works of finely crafted literature. From William Faulkner's determination that a great novel takes "ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work," to Gabriel García Márquez's observation that "in the first paragraph, you solve most of the problems with your book," The Paris Review has elicited revelatory and revealing thoughts from our most accomplished novelists, poets, and playwrights. With an introduction by Orhan Pamuk, this volume brings together another rich, varied crop of literary voices, including Toni Morrison, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Graham Greene, James Baldwin, Stephen King, Philip Larkin, Eudora Welty, and more. "A colossal literary event," as Gary Shteyngart put it, The Paris Review Interviews, II, is an indispensable treasury of wisdom from the world's literary masters.

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The Paris Review Interviews, III by The Paris Review

Since The Paris Review was founded in 1953, it has given us invaluable conversations with the greatest writers of our age, vivid self-portraits that are themselves works of finely crafted literature. From Salman Rushdie's daring rhetorical question "why shouldn't literature provoke?" to Joyce Carol Oates's thrilling comments about her own prolific output, The Paris Review has elicited revelatory and revealing thoughts from our most accomplished novelists, poets, and playwrights. How did Geroges Simenon manage to write about six books a year, what was it like for Jan Morris to write as both a man and a woman, what influences moved Ralph Ellison to write Invisible Man? In the pages of The Paris Review, writers give more than simple answers, they offer uncommon candor, depth, and wit in interviews that have become the gold standard of the literary Q&A. With an introduction by Margaret Atwood, this volume brings together another rich, varied crop of literary voices, including Martin Amis, Norman Mailer, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Harold Pinter, and more. "A colossal literary event," as Gary Shteyngart put it, The Paris Review Interviews, III, is an indespensible teasure of wisdom from the world's literary masters.

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The Paris Review Interviews, IV by The Paris Review

This critically acclaimed series continues with another eclectic lineup, including Philip Roth, Ezra Pound, Haruki Murakami, Marilynne Robinson, Stephen Sondheim, E. B. White, Maya Angelou, William Styron and more. In each of these remarkable extended conversations, the authors touch every corner of the writing life, sharing their ambitions, obsessions, inspirations, disappointments, and the most idiosyncratic details of their writing habits. 

The collected interviews of The Paris Reviews are, as Gary Shteyngart put it, "a colossal literary event."

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Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers On a Train, The Talented Mr.Ripley, Found In The Street, and many other books, is known as one of the finest suspense novelists. In this book, she analyzes the key elements of suspense fiction, drawing upon her own experience in four decades as a working writer. She talks about, among other topics; how to develop a complete story from an idea; what makes a plot gripping; the use (and abuse) of coincidence; characterization and the "likeable criminal"; going from first draft to final draft; and writing the suspense short story.
Throughout the book, Highsmith illustrates her points with plentiful examples from her own work, and by discussing her own inspirations, false starts, dead ends, successes, and failures, she presents a lively and highly readable picture of the novelist at work.

Anyone who wishes to write crime and suspense fiction, or who enjoys reading it, will find this book an insightful guide to the craft and art of a modern master.

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How Fiction Works by James Wood

In the tradition of E. M. Forster's  Aspects of the Novel and Milan Kundera's The Art of the NovelHow Fiction Works is a scintillating study of the magic of fiction--an analysis of its main elements and a celebration of its lasting power. Here one of the most prominent and stylish critics of our time looks into the machinery of storytelling to ask some fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we "know" a fictional character? What constitutes a telling detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is Realism realistic? Why do some literary conventions become dated while others stay fresh?

James Wood ranges widely, from Homer to Make Way for Ducklings, from the Bible to John le Carré, and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound, How Fiction Works will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone else interested in what happens on the page.

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One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction.

Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.

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78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh

For the hundreds of thousands who buy writers’ guides every year, at last there’s one that tells the ugly truth: writers who can’t get published are usually making a lot of mistakes. This honest, often funny,  book shows them how to identify their own missteps, stop listening to bad advice, and get to work. Drawing on his experience as founding editor of MacAdam/Cage, Pat Walsh gives writers what they need—specific, straightforward feedback to help them overcome bad habits and bad luck. He avoids the optimistic, sometimes misleading directions often found in publishing how-to books and presents the industry as it is, warts and all. Here is the first guide that tells writers just what the odds against them are and gives them practical tips for evening them.

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