Autodidact: self-taught


Reading Like a Writer

by V. L. Craven

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
001. Along with preadolescence came a more pressing desire for escape. [PN: Topography of life’s reading.] …how far a book could take me from my life and how long it could keep me there. [PN: Why people read: escape or home (?)] … Reading was like eating alone, with that same element of bingeing [sic] .
002. …a confrontation with the mystery of time. [PN: Unlike some people who claim a love of language, Prose actually documents (?) it.]
003. …ideas and politics trumped what the writer had actually written. [PN: ??]
004. …Afraid of running out of books, I decided to slow myself down by reading Proust in French. [PH: That’d do it.]
005. [Regarding writing after reading inspiring work.] It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.
006. I’ve also heard fellow writers say that they cannot read while working on a book of their own for fear that Tolstoy or Shakespeare might influence them. I’ve always hoped they would influence me, and I wonder if I would have taken so happily to being a writer if it had meant that I couldn’t read for the years it might take to complete a novel.
To be truthful, there are writers who will stop you dead in your tracks by making you see your own work in the most unflattering light.
007. Usually, I would teach one creative writing workshop each semester, together with a literature class entitled something like “The Modern Short Story”–a course designed for undergraduates who weren’t planning to major in literature or go on to graduate school and so would not be damaged by my inability to teach literary theory.
008. Close reading helped me figure out, as I hoped it did for me students, a way to approach a difficult aspect of writing, which is nearly always difficult. [PN: Allow other authors to do the teaching. Since they couldn’t be here—Prose translates.] They are the teachers to whom I go.
009. Let’s say you are facing the challenges of populating a room with a large cast of characters all talking at once. Having read the ballroom scene in Anna Karenina, or the wild party that winds through so many pages of William Gaddis’ The Recognitions, you have sources to which you can go not just for inspiration but for technical assistance.

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