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Book Reviews
Book Reviews - May
By Lita Kurth
May, 2005, 09:09

T
une into IN reviews for the best of How-To books from writing all walks of life and genres -- from high adventure to haiku, from fact to fiction, cookbooks to commentary and much, much more. Always check IN to see what's in. We only publish the best and our rating scale below is based upon the values of the three Es: Ease-of-Read, Educational, and Entertaining.

If you have a how-to write book that you would like us to read and possibly write a review about (we only publish reviews of books that we deem are best of the best) please send it to us. Our snail mail address is located in our 'About' area.

Title: If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence And Spirit
Author: Brenda Ueland
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 1555972608
Reviewer: Lita Kurth
IN Rating:

Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence And Spirit is aburied treasure.

Rediscovered by Graywolf Press and now released in a third edition, it is essential to the beginner in any creative art, but especially to writers, even helpful to those already established. Why?

Bluntly, it gives reader the courage to continue. Who could resist her quotation from William Blake and the title of one of her chapters, “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires,”?

Too many books on writing these days offer questionable advice and give every appearance of having been writing in six weeks or less. But Ueland stands out.

Her book is the distillation of a lifetime, managing to mingle practical, concrete examples of how to write (and how not to) with broader reflections on how to live a creative life. (One chapter is titled “Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing”.)

And if anyone knew how to live creatively, it was Ueland. She spent 70-some adult years writing books and articles, living to the hilt, and teaching writing. Of her teaching she pronounces joyously, “I think I was a splendid teacher...” and reading the book, it's obvious.

A democrat of art, Ueland joined forces with John Reed and Eugene O’Neill in Greenwich Village. Back at home in Minneapolis she taught, for years, a writing class at the YWCA.

Though she died in 1983, writers can participate in her legendary classes through this book, and partake of her joyful, invigorating zeal for her students: “Everybody” she proclaims, “is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Amen.

This book is available at Amazon

If you like this review, take a look at 'Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading' for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

Title: Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within
Author: Natalie Goldberg
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 0877733759
Reviewer: Lita Kurth
IN Rating:

How, one asks, can someone write not one, but four books on writing, and still have something good to say?

Natalie Goldberg answers this question indirectly by producing book after book of intriguing depth and interest. If you’ve never read her, you might want to start at the beginning with Writing Down the Bones: Freeing The Writer Within.

If it sounds New Age, it is. But there is good New Age and bad New Age and Golberg's book stands with the former. For one thing, she wrote and published a decent, though not famous novel, Banana Rose, so she’s talking from experience -- she isn’t just another hack with a contract.

For another, influenced by Buddhist practices, she has considered deeply a number of writing-life questions that writers encounter, and writes about them with flair.

Consider some of her chapter titles: “Elkton, Minnesota: Whatever’s In Front Of You”, “Don’t Use Writing To Get Love”, (Damn!) “A Big Topic: Eroticism”, and “Writing In Restaurants.” And finally, she had taught writing for 11 years in a variety of venues when she penned this first how-to book.

Goldberg is forthright and personal, and for some readers she's almost too personal, taking them into her kitchen where she makes ratatouille and addressing her ex-husband’s comments like, “You look ugly...Ahh, now that I have your attention”.

Her instruction is clear, plain, and honest and worth some thought. “To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life,” Goldberg states simply. “A few years ago, after every reading I gave, no matter how much everyone appreciated my work, I felt lonely and terrible.”

Her conclusion? “It wasn’t my work...I was going through a divorce and had low self-esteem. I needed support, not my poetry. I confused the two.”

Some will find these personal reflections the very reason they buy the book; others will find them irritating digressions. But one knows, reading Golberg's book, that they are in the presence of a real person who has written with her entire being.

A writer could do worse.

This book is available at Amazon

If you like this review, take a look at 'Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading' for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.
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Lita Kurth is a freelance writer and book reviewer. Email: lakurth@yahoo.com



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