I bought this book a few years ago for a creative writing class at CSUB; most of the non-fiction on my shelves seems to be there for similar reasons. I only skimmed Reading Like a Writer while taking the class, as I was far more interested in Austerlitz (the novel by W.G. Sebald that we were studying) and the writing workshops, since I was fortunate to be in a pretty good group. Since I’ve been doing much more reading as well as writing this year, I thought it might prove useful to read this guide from the beginning.
Prose’s nonfiction writing is workmanlike and instructive. Her love of literature is palpable and contagious. She draws from a diverse selection of stories and novels and provides quality excepts from those texts to illustrate the points she is making. Like Prose, I have little patience for someone who wants to create artistically without being “corrupted” by study of the greats. Good writers read. They read a lot and they read studiously. I don’t care for some of the writers she uses, (Henry Green just isn’t my cup of tea) but that’s an entirely subjective complaint, and she makes valid points with those examples nonetheless.
Some reviewers have complained about a certain staid, old-guard/New York tone, and while I understand where they are coming from, the book more than fulfills its function. I’m as bothered by the prissy safety of the New Yorker as much as anyone, but they manage to publish some powerful fiction and intelligent articles in spite of it. The quality of the work always comes first. Recommended, both for writers and non-writing lovers of literature.