The aptly-named Francine Prose reminds us that any good creative writing is grounded in close and appreciative reading. Her choice selections from writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Heinrich von Kleist, Leo Tolstoy, Katherine Mansfield, and ZZ Packer show us how these writers set scenes, construct brilliant dialogues, and bring characters to life through detail and gesture.
“Great writers painstakingly construct their fictions with small but significant details,” she writes in a discussion of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. “Brushstoke by brushstroke, [they] paint the pictures the artists hope to portray, the strange or familiar realities of which they hope to convince us.” An acclaimed writer and critic who has also taught extensively, Prose inspires the reader to attend to great writing as closely as she does. Her list of “Books to be Read Immediately” is a valuable resource in itself.
Whether you are inspired or terrified by Prose’s assertion that “literature not only breaks the rules, but makes us realize that there are none,” Reading Like a Writer will have you looking at others’ work, and your own, with a refreshed and discerning eye.