Tag Archives: novel

#WhatImReadingNow: Stoner

Two weeks after that conversation Stoner received a memo from Lomax’s office which informed him that his schedule for the next semester was changed, that he would teach his old graduate seminar on the Latin Tradition and Renaissance Literature, a senior and graduate course in Middle English language and literature, a sophomore literature survey, and […]

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#WhatImReadingNow : Pax

The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first. Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists. By the vibrations, he learned also that the road had grown coarser. He stretched up from his boy’s lap and sniffed at threads of […]

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Study This: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

I’ve already written about The Summer Before the War—which I read first (and which is, in fact, the more accomplished novel)—but I really enjoyed Helen Simonson’s novel-writing skills in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (the New York Times calls it “funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling”) and I think there’s a lot to learn from reading her. Indeed, the […]

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#WordUse Series:
Words I Never Want to See in Your Novel. Please.

When I get to the end of an edit, I generally make a list of the author’s “favorite” words and phrases—words he or she used over and over without realizing it. It’s quite instructive. Usually they are words like so and well used at the beginning of sentences of dialogue. Often it’s amazing (and you know how I feel about that!). Smirk shows up […]

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Looking for Good Writing

How much or how little “natural” ability anyone has is nearly impossible to gauge. When Emily Dickinson composed the lines that filled the pages she kept in her lonely desk, she could not know that her pure apprehension of the language, her immutable style and breathtaking line breaks would forever change the landscape of American […]

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Possible … Not Probable

Some years ago in a weak moment I fell victim to some mediocre book marketing—“follow-up to the international best-selling Pillars of the Earth!”—and purchased Ken Follett’s World Without End, a one thousand–page historical novel. I’d read and enjoyed his early work*—Eye of the Needle (1978), Triple (1979), The Key to Rebecca (1980), The Man from […]

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Study This: The Summer Before the War

It’s nearly 500 pages long—and I flew through Helen Simonson’s second novel set in an English village. I never wanted to put it down. Also, it made me angry (on behalf of a character I loved), and it made me cry a couple times. This is a sign that I was fully invested—in the characters, […]

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Short Saturday: The Paradox of Voice

I’ve written some about finding your voice (there are links below). Many people have. And you’ll hear lots of different opinions … which makes it difficult for young or inexperienced writers to figure out. What is voice in writing? And how do you identify yours? It’s a mystery until you one day find yourself writing […]

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The Irony of Books for Everyone

The first half of the [eighteenth] century had witnessed a massive surge in printing and the appetite for print. Books circulated freely thanks in part to the new commercial lending libraries, and second-hand copies could be picked up cheaply from dealers who traded from stalls or barrows. Even those on modest incomes could afford chapbooks, […]

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Short Saturday: Beautiful Sentences

This has happened to you, I’m sure: you’re reading along and an exquisite sentence stops you in your tracks. Sometimes it’s in a novel full of perfection; sometimes it’s in a novel where it shines like a diamond in a pile of coal. This list came across Facebook this week, and I couldn’t resist taking […]

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