Incredible in Scope
Tin House Books, $18.95, 246 pages
The Writer’s Notebook II is a collection of essays on the craft and art of writing. An amalgamation of fifteen writers’ thoughts, this book is an intriguing foray beyond their published works and into the minds, and thus pens (or keyboards) of the authors. Each essay focuses on a separate aspect of writing: Ann Hood discusses story beginnings, using a variety of well-known examples, while Anthony Doerr pontificates about the importance and utter genius of suspense (it’s all in the delaying tactics), and Karen Russell examines the gripping power of fantasy. The Writer’s Notebook II is a writer’s workshop between two covers, filled with literary wisdom and elegant articulations of abstract ideas that will keep readers nodding sagely, and enthusiastically, throughout. All a reader then has to do is whip out a laptop, or more likely, a treasured pencil, and write. A quill would not be out of place either.
“The closest writers may ever come to saying something accurate, let alone useful, about what we do is when we are alone, at our desks, in private – when we write the sort of essays collected in The Writer’s Notebook II.”
Though the prose is beautiful and thoughtful there is a disappointing amount of foul language and thematically mature coverage. Barring that, the insights the authors offer aspiring literary greats are incredibly valuable and empowering – apparently the best formula for writing is no formula at all.
Reviewed By Andrea Klein