The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write

Various. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-935639-96-1
Marking the 30th anniversary of the nonprofit Literary Arts in Oregon, this collection of 10 lectures from celebrated writers reanimates the humanistic argument that, far from being a “marginal cultural activity,” the production of serious literary fiction is an essential task. With eloquence, humility, and humor, contributors reflect both on their own creative processes and on literature as a whole. Trickery emerges as a common theme, with Margaret Atwood characterizing novel writing as a “kind of bank robbery,” and Wallace Stegner adding, “We’re all practiced shape-shifters and ventriloquists.” Even so, the subjects addressed are refreshingly diverse—Atwood writes on feminism, Russell Banks on film, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Edward P. Jones on their sources of inspiration, and Ursula K. Le Guin on the “moral seriousness” of fantasy, to name a few. As a whole, the essays illuminate the importance of books in widening our intellectual horizons and the struggle to bring novels and their characters to life. The beautiful language these accomplished authors employ exemplifies the unteachable quality of the true “tricks of craft.” Serious readers should find a welcome reminder in this collection that great literature emerges from a receptive mind engaged with the “unanswerable questions” of human character and experience. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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