Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

I picked this up at my library off the librarian recommendation shelf.  I recognized the author’s name and the title piqued my curiosity.  I love reading and learning about how others read and what they admire, expect, watch for to help make my reading more informed.

Ms. Prose spends an entire book evaluating paragraph after paragraph of classic literature.  She looks at word choice and placement to examine the make up of a story by it’s core parts rather than to take in the whole story and place it into the context of the world in which we live or in which it was written.

When speaking of her MFA students, she wrote: “they had been encouraged to form strong, critical, and often negative opinions of geniuses who had been read with delight for centuries before they were born” (p. 10).  This quote and the following paragraph and a half struck me as I find myself more like her students.  I am definitely more in the context/deconstructionist cap of readers than the close reading camp she is encouraging.

While I may have learned  to read in a way that is different than her recommended method, I do think there are benefits to both. I am glad I picked up this book and can imagine visiting it again. Spending a few weeks with this author’s ideas and working through the examples and exercises she offers would be worth my time.

The fact she spends so little time on plot was also an obvious omission to me.  Regardless of the story to be told, the delivery of words is the most fundamental to this style of reading.  If you can choose the right words, to create the best sentence to form perfect paragraphs, your story will resonate with readers.

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