cover image BEFORE WE GET STARTED: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life

BEFORE WE GET STARTED: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life

Bret Lott, . . Ballantine, $13.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-345-47817-7

Lott was a little-known writer of literary fiction until Oprah Winfrey selected his then out-of-print novel Jewel for her TV book club, rocketing him into publishing's major leagues. In this candid memoir and literary handbook, Lott looks back to the hard times before Oprah, when he was forced to juggle raising a young family with a demanding teaching job that left him little time for writing. Recently named editor of the Southern Review, Lott offers via his reminiscences plenty of practical advice on the craft of writing, which for him is intricately bound up with observation and soulfulness. His hero is Raymond Carver, and his literary values echo those of the master; he urges writers to attend to the weight of every word, to the material reality of characters' daily working lives and to the handling of time. Beginning writers will appreciate the heartfelt supportiveness of his counsel as he imparts encouragement and insight. Of wider cultural interest is Lott's critique of the irony hawked by such writers as David Foster Wallace and of the so-called postironic Dave Eggers. Lott advances a case for a new and radically more hopeful genre of fiction. He imparts his own brand of wisdom on writing and the world of publishing with resounding candor and sincerity. (Jan. 25)