Book Reviews: Writing, Miscellaneous Nonfiction


How to Write a Damn Good Novel

This book is laughably bad, even insultingly bad. Apparently written in haste. The author doesn't take the trouble to get his facts straight. The "ideas" here are mostly a rehash of [Lajos] Egri's books (which I don't like either but are much better than this). Pages 65-67 are about the only readable pages in the book. Even if one were to follow his simple-minded advice, one would almost inevitably end up with "hack work" (like a best seller). I wasted $15.00 for this? 12/2/88 [Note: after typing this in, I went looking on the Internet for this book and found it, along with rave after rave review. Writing is a uniquely personal and perhaps arcane pastime; what is help to one is just so much trash to another. Go figure. 6/27/01]

Thomas Kane

The New Oxford Guide to Writing (read to p. 164)

An excellent, even brilliant book. Material from Chapter 19 on seems uniquely valuable. Then why stop reading? Because improving my writing must take a low priority when my social life is in chaos. 12/12/88

Judson Jerome

The Poet's Handbook

Excellent throughout, a solid piece of work. It didn't hurt, either, that he rejects meaningless "sensational" poetry as a viable form (thus confirming my feelings). Excellent discussion of meter; I thought the parts on rhyme and metaphor were weaker, however, or perhaps my interest was simply flagging at that point. Would be nice if he said something about working methods, alas. But what's here is worth careful attention. 8/23/89

The Poet and the Poem

Well worth reading. Several vital concepts (counterstatement) and perspectives, though I also disagree with some of his judgments. Different focus from The Poet's Handbook; generally little attention paid to mundane mechanics in a systematic way. Shows detailed criticism and revision of several poems. 9/8/89