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To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

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A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay. Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay. Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News). Here, combining more than forty years of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, he brings us this highly anticipated nuts-and-bolts guide to writing literary nonfiction. A phenomenal master class shaped by Lopate’s informative, accessible tone and immense gift for storytelling, To Show and To Tell reads like a long walk with a favorite professor—refreshing, insightful, and encouraging in often unexpected ways.


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A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay. Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News A long-awaited new book on personal writing from Phillip Lopate—celebrated essayist, the director of Columbia University’s nonfiction program, and editor of The Art of the Personal Essay. Distinguished author Phillip Lopate, editor of the celebrated anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, is universally acclaimed as “one of our best personal essayists” (Dallas Morning News). Here, combining more than forty years of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, he brings us this highly anticipated nuts-and-bolts guide to writing literary nonfiction. A phenomenal master class shaped by Lopate’s informative, accessible tone and immense gift for storytelling, To Show and To Tell reads like a long walk with a favorite professor—refreshing, insightful, and encouraging in often unexpected ways.

30 review for To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    For a book that was cobbled together out of disparate essays, Lopate's musings on essays in particular and "creative" non-fiction in general creates exactly what is promised by the title: a treatise on non-fiction writing that both shows and tells. I suppose it will remain to be seen, but Lopate's book was an epiphany for me. I realized that I've been fighting my own proclivities in writing by trying to write fiction. The irony is that almost everything I write is non-fiction or poetry, rarely d For a book that was cobbled together out of disparate essays, Lopate's musings on essays in particular and "creative" non-fiction in general creates exactly what is promised by the title: a treatise on non-fiction writing that both shows and tells. I suppose it will remain to be seen, but Lopate's book was an epiphany for me. I realized that I've been fighting my own proclivities in writing by trying to write fiction. The irony is that almost everything I write is non-fiction or poetry, rarely do I write fiction. My aspirations as a writer have been thwarted by my misguided desire to write fiction. For that insight alone, I'd give the book five stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sherilyn Lee

    I graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction writing in 2006, then wrote poetry for several years, then joined a nonfiction writing group this year and found myself writing the longest personal narrative I had ever written. My writing group also reads and we dove into this book last month. Lopate is a concise and precise writer, while still giving the book a personal feel as if you were taking a workshop from him. This book is serious but not stern. He weighs in on the typical nonfiction argum I graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction writing in 2006, then wrote poetry for several years, then joined a nonfiction writing group this year and found myself writing the longest personal narrative I had ever written. My writing group also reads and we dove into this book last month. Lopate is a concise and precise writer, while still giving the book a personal feel as if you were taking a workshop from him. This book is serious but not stern. He weighs in on the typical nonfiction arguments: what is nonfiction, what makes it good, truth and facts, writing about others, the lyric essay, and the use of a dual perspective. Lopate's thoughts on these topics, especially the last one, have given me possibilities on revising my own work. I'd recommend this book to any nonfiction writer at any level of experience. There's a lot to learn or to relearn in this book and to travel through these pages with Lopate's wit, efficient writing, and life advice is even more fun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    julieta

    I really enjoyed this, and Lopate has some really good tips if you are trying to write non fiction. The only problem for me was that most of his examples were with his students work, and at some parts he seemed to be bullying which was kind of uncomfortable. There are very few women mentioned, but still this is a great companion to reading about non fiction. Now I want to read more essays, by James Baldwin, Ralph Waldo, and others.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Louden

    A fantastic series of essays about writing creative non-fiction - with such subtle and wonderful explanations of many of the predicaments a writer of memoir or creative non fiction finds herself in. Invaluable.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    A professor at Columbia, Lopate cites his personal experience and his decades of reviewing student work to illustrate his themes in the craft of literary nonfiction. He concentrates on personal essays and memoirs, offers some useful tips, but all were well-worn elements. He has a tendency to keep citing the works of dead white men, which is probably the literary group that holds my least interest. Meh.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lea Page

    I am a relatively new writer (although not a relatively new person) with little formal training, and it wasn't until I read To Show and To Tell that I identified myself as a writer of literary non-fiction. Lopate writes with a combination of rigor and humor, in what I can only imagine is his regular voice. The book itself shows and tells and is therefore an excellent model of what he seeks to teach. Reading it felt a little bit like finding a tool made for lefties when you are left-handed and ha I am a relatively new writer (although not a relatively new person) with little formal training, and it wasn't until I read To Show and To Tell that I identified myself as a writer of literary non-fiction. Lopate writes with a combination of rigor and humor, in what I can only imagine is his regular voice. The book itself shows and tells and is therefore an excellent model of what he seeks to teach. Reading it felt a little bit like finding a tool made for lefties when you are left-handed and have been managing to make do with tools manufactured for righties. You can do the job, but you never feel quite at home with how the tool fits into your hand. I am inspired to freedom and further study, embodied by Lopate's comment: "... by trying to imitate a writer you admire and falling short of the mark, you may discover, in the gap between your efforts and hers, traces of your own original style." And add to that this generous sentence: "Granted, writing about one's family or intimates can be an aggressive, vindictive act, but it can also be a way of communicating something to loved ones you never could before--a "gift" of the truth of your feelings." Truth: living outside of good/bad, right/wrong. Telling a true story so that the truth can take its place outside of the story. Thank you, Mr. Lopate, for opening up the door to that possibility.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Larissa

    If Phillip Lopate had decided to not use his graduate students as his crutch for every example of what NOT to do I might be more willing to finish this book. Also, if he actually focused on how he researches, writes and edits, versus more of the what not to do's and jokes at others expenses I might be able to learn from his recognized talent. Until then I'll read his essays that aren't on writing, and listen to his brother, Leonard. If Phillip Lopate had decided to not use his graduate students as his crutch for every example of what NOT to do I might be more willing to finish this book. Also, if he actually focused on how he researches, writes and edits, versus more of the what not to do's and jokes at others expenses I might be able to learn from his recognized talent. Until then I'll read his essays that aren't on writing, and listen to his brother, Leonard.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    This was a very informative read on writing mostly essays and non-fiction. He explains how non-fiction can have prose as great as fiction. He tells on what we can’t remember to write of in our truths and reality to take from some imagination, and how we do create a small amount of fiction in non-fiction in doing this.There is priceless advice in here on writing and he writes about great essayists. He gives examples from Emerson and James Baldwin, and more, writes of their writing style and lives. This was a very informative read on writing mostly essays and non-fiction. He explains how non-fiction can have prose as great as fiction. He tells on what we can’t remember to write of in our truths and reality to take from some imagination, and how we do create a small amount of fiction in non-fiction in doing this.There is priceless advice in here on writing and he writes about great essayists. He gives examples from Emerson and James Baldwin, and more, writes of their writing style and lives. Advice contained within that many on a writing road will need to re-read and ponder over, to muse over many times. Excerpts to come in a few days. Review also @ http://more2read.com/review/to-show-and-to-tell-the-craft-of-literary-nonfiction-by-phillip-lopate/

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Whitehead

    It's easy to tell that Phillip Lopate is passionate and well-educated on the craft of writing essays. There were a few useful bits of insight that I could take away, but overall I found this book to be surprisingly and overwhelmingly dense. I might be too amateur of a writer to glean much from it, but I tried, and still got lost (and bored) in an unneeded amount of detail. The author went on tangents about other authors' lives, his personal preferences, and his students that didn't give me any p It's easy to tell that Phillip Lopate is passionate and well-educated on the craft of writing essays. There were a few useful bits of insight that I could take away, but overall I found this book to be surprisingly and overwhelmingly dense. I might be too amateur of a writer to glean much from it, but I tried, and still got lost (and bored) in an unneeded amount of detail. The author went on tangents about other authors' lives, his personal preferences, and his students that didn't give me any practical help with writing essays. Let's connect: Blog | Bookstagram | Twitter | Facebook

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anna Conard

    Bow down to Lord Lopate! It feels painfully nerdy to say that I enjoyed reading a craft text, but I blew through this book with delight. Many times, I laughed out loud at what I was reading. And that's definitely because Lopate practices what he preaches. As he discusses following your curiosities, listening to that stubborn contrarian voice in your head, and putting yourself into your work, Lopate crafts himself into an endlessly amusing and "round" narrator that I admire. Even if this book did Bow down to Lord Lopate! It feels painfully nerdy to say that I enjoyed reading a craft text, but I blew through this book with delight. Many times, I laughed out loud at what I was reading. And that's definitely because Lopate practices what he preaches. As he discusses following your curiosities, listening to that stubborn contrarian voice in your head, and putting yourself into your work, Lopate crafts himself into an endlessly amusing and "round" narrator that I admire. Even if this book didn't provide definitive answers to questions I have about writing nonfiction, or even reliable tips and strategies, I've nonetheless gained insight from a gifted writer about his craft.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carol Apple

    Insightful book on the controversies, quandaries, and possible pitfalls of writing literary non-fiction by a well-known practitioner and professor of the craft. I especially liked Lopate's practical yet sensitive tone and his resistance to both popular and academic fads and fashions. The book ends with a long and juicy reading list. I thought I was fairly well read, but now I have about 100 additional books to add to my reading list. Insightful book on the controversies, quandaries, and possible pitfalls of writing literary non-fiction by a well-known practitioner and professor of the craft. I especially liked Lopate's practical yet sensitive tone and his resistance to both popular and academic fads and fashions. The book ends with a long and juicy reading list. I thought I was fairly well read, but now I have about 100 additional books to add to my reading list.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    This is a collection of essays on writing personal narratives, and it's great. Lopate's an excellent writer. His tackles some great issues, and really makes me want to read a ton of writers I just can't seem to get in to. So in some ways, this is like the sparks notes for the personal essay tradition, but it's also lovely and inspiring. Got me to revise an old essay and start a new one while reading, so not bad. This is a collection of essays on writing personal narratives, and it's great. Lopate's an excellent writer. His tackles some great issues, and really makes me want to read a ton of writers I just can't seem to get in to. So in some ways, this is like the sparks notes for the personal essay tradition, but it's also lovely and inspiring. Got me to revise an old essay and start a new one while reading, so not bad.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Tyson

    What a great book! My first experience with Lopate was from his introduction in his anthology of The Art of the Personal Essay. This book is a wonderful and personal introduction to those elements which Lopate considers important in the craft of writing the personal essay. The book is indispensable just because of the booklist in the back. Now I have to go to the library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Outstanding. Rich with insights and inspiration. And great reading recommendations.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    If you can get past the parts where he trashes Baldwin as overly emotional and critiques female writers' lack of logical consistency while giving David Eggers high praise (these sins are almost unforgivable), this book is very helpful for anyone trying to write non-fiction. He is a good teacher of the form because he seems to respect the art of writing non-fiction. His advice on the personal essay was very good and his advice about writing about family was a bit unsettling--basically, he says tr If you can get past the parts where he trashes Baldwin as overly emotional and critiques female writers' lack of logical consistency while giving David Eggers high praise (these sins are almost unforgivable), this book is very helpful for anyone trying to write non-fiction. He is a good teacher of the form because he seems to respect the art of writing non-fiction. His advice on the personal essay was very good and his advice about writing about family was a bit unsettling--basically, he says try to have a lot of siblings so that you can spare to lose a few.

  16. 4 out of 5

    D.A. Gray

    Effective, thought-provoking. A supplement that works best when used with a wide range of sample essays and writing prompts. One of the best parts of reading Lopate is his transparency when it comes to his own prejudices when it comes to approaches. The discussions in the classroom help students on either side of an idea to assess their own approaches and to be more deliberate in what they set out to accomplish.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christianne

    Instructive and enjoyable; I enjoyed it more than his own essays in Getting Personal

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    It took me a long time to read these essays, not because they were difficult, but I think because they made me feel guilty. They are so well written and engaging and even encouraging to the writer that I felt bad ignoring his comments and advice by not writing and so stayed away. I eventually got over that. Lopate offers a strong defense of the literary nature and the value of essay writing and the memoir. Most of the book deals with writing personal narrative, and includes essays on turning you It took me a long time to read these essays, not because they were difficult, but I think because they made me feel guilty. They are so well written and engaging and even encouraging to the writer that I felt bad ignoring his comments and advice by not writing and so stayed away. I eventually got over that. Lopate offers a strong defense of the literary nature and the value of essay writing and the memoir. Most of the book deals with writing personal narrative, and includes essays on turning yourself into a character, how to end an essay, and contrariety (from the author of Against Joie de Vivre this seems natural) among others. His advice is buttressed by years of teaching writing and he offers as examples the mistakes his students often (continually) make in ordering their writing. He had good advice on journals and argues for the validity and usefulness of Montaigne-like rambling exploration in the personal essay. He ends the book with five essays on practioners and these have given me a listing of essays by Hazlitt, Lamb, Baldwin, and Hoagland to read. He has even made me consider buying a collection of Emerson's journals - a remarkable feat for a man like me, who has such ambivalence towards Emerson's essays and lectures. A very good book to help think about writing, especially writing about yourself, and to provide even more essays to read (to avoid that writing - I mean to enrich that writing). "What makes me want to keep reading a nonfiction text is the encounter with a surprising, well-stocked mind as it takes on the challenge of the next sentence, paragraph, and thematic problem it has set for itself. The other element that keeps me reading nonfiction happily is an evolved, entertaining, elegant, or at least highly intentional literary style. The pressure of style should be brought to bear on every passage. 'Consciousness plus style equals good nonfiction' is one way of stating the formula."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Some great info for teaching/writing CNF re: turning oneself into character, how or when to "end" an essay, research, etc. What I have a problem with, is Lopate's brevity with lyric essays. (Poet review here!) I was expecting the same sort of guidance or discussion as many of the other chapters, though was surprised to find this is one area of CNF he is not versed in. Which is fine-- but we ARE reading "the craft of literary nonfiction" which, in my mind, includes the lyric. Like, if you're cons Some great info for teaching/writing CNF re: turning oneself into character, how or when to "end" an essay, research, etc. What I have a problem with, is Lopate's brevity with lyric essays. (Poet review here!) I was expecting the same sort of guidance or discussion as many of the other chapters, though was surprised to find this is one area of CNF he is not versed in. Which is fine-- but we ARE reading "the craft of literary nonfiction" which, in my mind, includes the lyric. Like, if you're considered an expert, I'm fine with the honesty, but the instructor side of me is disappointed I have to look elsewhere for more lyric essay resources. I suppose I'll refer back to my poetry professors. Section II "Studies of Practitioners" feels unnecessary, I'm not sure why all of a sudden we receive personal essays about 3ish essayists, it's kinda random. In addition, this book would receive more stars if he included more women in his "comprehensive reading list" in the back. Like really dude? There are probably 300 names/references, and roughly 58 of them are women (some names recycled)? Nah.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charles Michael Fischer

    Lopate's passionate argument for "telling" is refreshing, and a much needed rebuttal to creative writing instructors who misteach memoir as nothing more than a real story told through fictional devices. If so, why bother writing a memoir? Write an autobiographical novel instead. Lopate argues for better harmony between "showing" and scene vs. telling, which is where the memoirist interprets, analyzes, pontificates, digresses, integrates research, etc. Telling is not the same in both genres. Also Lopate's passionate argument for "telling" is refreshing, and a much needed rebuttal to creative writing instructors who misteach memoir as nothing more than a real story told through fictional devices. If so, why bother writing a memoir? Write an autobiographical novel instead. Lopate argues for better harmony between "showing" and scene vs. telling, which is where the memoirist interprets, analyzes, pontificates, digresses, integrates research, etc. Telling is not the same in both genres. Also, unlike the novelist, the [ethical] memoirist does not have the luxury of making something up when there is a lull, like an action or surprise scene. In lieu of this, Lopate gives memoirists permission to fill in these gaps with the kind of purposeful telling that should have never fallen out-of-favor in the first place. Part I of the book covers craft. Part II provides closer, sustained "studies" of influential essayists and memorists. I doubt I will return to any of the essays in Part II, but I will return to the craft essays in Part I, similar to how I return to chapters from Mary Karr's "The Art of Memoir." There could be more diversity among the authors discussed in the book and in the "Reading List" section at the end.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linda Tapp

    I chose two books on literary/creative non-fiction to read during a recent vacation. When I chose the two - this one and one by Lee Gutkind titled "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" - I did not realize they would be so different. While I am glad I read about this topic from two different authors, I found Mr. Gutkind's book easier to read and more valuable. This book contains valuable information for those seriously considering writing literary non-fiction but I feel it is more for individuals who ha I chose two books on literary/creative non-fiction to read during a recent vacation. When I chose the two - this one and one by Lee Gutkind titled "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" - I did not realize they would be so different. While I am glad I read about this topic from two different authors, I found Mr. Gutkind's book easier to read and more valuable. This book contains valuable information for those seriously considering writing literary non-fiction but I feel it is more for individuals who have studied writing in the past. I often felt as though I was listening to a beloved college professor pontificating on writing, literature, life and everything else. There were many references I was not familiar with and I feel I would have gotten more from this book if I had a liberal arts degree. I still found many sections worth highlighting and will likely return to review a few parts in the future.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    The first few chapters provide good direction, but very soon he loses his own. He becomes professorial and didactic. He veers off on self-absorbed tangents. He starts to bloviate, and then he can't seem to stop. I had a college English professor, an older, privileged white guy in the classic mold, who, when I asked for a recommendation for a Fulbright application, told me I was too shy and not aggressive enough to get one. Lopate reminds me of that guy. I can sense that he has some wisdom and so The first few chapters provide good direction, but very soon he loses his own. He becomes professorial and didactic. He veers off on self-absorbed tangents. He starts to bloviate, and then he can't seem to stop. I had a college English professor, an older, privileged white guy in the classic mold, who, when I asked for a recommendation for a Fulbright application, told me I was too shy and not aggressive enough to get one. Lopate reminds me of that guy. I can sense that he has some wisdom and some kindness to impart to aspiring writers, but his personality and his fixed perspective get in the way. Vivian Gornick's 'The Situation and the Story' was much more readable and welcoming.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Louise Aronson

    This wasn't quite what i expected, i.e. a book on the topic indicated by the title. Rather it's a collection of essays that address the craft of literary non-fiction in various ways. Some are helpful and others are interesting. A few are repetitive. It's not comprehensive and doesn't do what it would if Lopate actually sat down to write the book suggested by his title. This wasn't quite what i expected, i.e. a book on the topic indicated by the title. Rather it's a collection of essays that address the craft of literary non-fiction in various ways. Some are helpful and others are interesting. A few are repetitive. It's not comprehensive and doesn't do what it would if Lopate actually sat down to write the book suggested by his title.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara Habein

    I didn't always agree with Lopate (his attitude towards James Baldwin is a bit dismissive, for instance), but this book gave me a lot to think about. Worth a read if you're interested in creative nonfiction, but perhaps not at full cover price. I didn't always agree with Lopate (his attitude towards James Baldwin is a bit dismissive, for instance), but this book gave me a lot to think about. Worth a read if you're interested in creative nonfiction, but perhaps not at full cover price.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Belle Beth Cooper

    Leans too heavily on other authors without adding to the summaries of their work. The first third or so was useful in understanding the structure of personal essays, though.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Hickman

    I love reading about writing and writers of any craft from the personal essay, nonfiction, novel or the craziest Science Fiction piece imaginable. I love reading about how writers shape their craft, who or what has inspired their writing and what I can learn from each of them. I read this book right after reading Lee Gutkind, and nothing against Lopate but Gutkind was just far more interesting. Gutkind's book made me want to be a writer, Lopate's made me want to finish the book so I wouldn't hav I love reading about writing and writers of any craft from the personal essay, nonfiction, novel or the craziest Science Fiction piece imaginable. I love reading about how writers shape their craft, who or what has inspired their writing and what I can learn from each of them. I read this book right after reading Lee Gutkind, and nothing against Lopate but Gutkind was just far more interesting. Gutkind's book made me want to be a writer, Lopate's made me want to finish the book so I wouldn't have to read it anymore. Lopate kept citing the same five or six authors, all long dead, yet never quoting them. I've even read a few of the books he mentioned, although he acts like no one on the Earth has read Emerson, War and Peace, Hazlitt or Baldwin. Also the second half of the book is just a bore, besides the fact that Lopate trashes Baldwin for an entire chapter because of the horrible reason that his students actually like his work. I really wanted to like this book. I was spoiled by Gutkind's book and I was really looking forward to reading this but every chapter was either citing his students for what not to do, or preaching about Montaigne or dissing other current authors. This book was a let down and I was nice to give it two stars. He might be a great essayist and a valued scholar in his field, but he needs to leave it to Gutkind and others to write books about it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    John

    This short but meaningful collection of essays by Phillip Lopate about essay and non-fiction writing sends readers and writers alike on a journey to think and rethink our use of words, sentences, and ideas into a cornucopia blossoming with purposeful prose. Lopate allows writers to take a deep breath and sigh with relief as he retraces some of the most formal writing practices and considers new directions, edges, and pathways to authorial beauty. His essays are succinct but warm, thoughtful but f This short but meaningful collection of essays by Phillip Lopate about essay and non-fiction writing sends readers and writers alike on a journey to think and rethink our use of words, sentences, and ideas into a cornucopia blossoming with purposeful prose. Lopate allows writers to take a deep breath and sigh with relief as he retraces some of the most formal writing practices and considers new directions, edges, and pathways to authorial beauty. His essays are succinct but warm, thoughtful but focused, and stylish but instructional. To Show and to Tell is a joy to read. I personally allowed myself only one essay per day so that I could entangle myself into Lopate's writing and ideas. While imperfect the collection of essays will give any non-fiction writer more than tools, rather a foundation to think through the hills and valleys of the writing craft. His work is important and refreshing. There is also a beautiful gift at the end for avid readers: a reading list (5 to 6 pages deep)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kony

    A charming, sometimes thought-provoking collection of essays about essays, by a very well-read author from a slightly earlier era. Phillip Lopate riffs on the state of the craft, elements of a "great" essay, and his favorite essayists. He's curious, thoughtful, self-deprecating, and a bit stodgy in a good-humored, self-aware way. His reading repertoire skews heavily white and male, hewing to the Eurocentric "canon" of the literary "establishment," and he seems less self-aware about that. I wish A charming, sometimes thought-provoking collection of essays about essays, by a very well-read author from a slightly earlier era. Phillip Lopate riffs on the state of the craft, elements of a "great" essay, and his favorite essayists. He's curious, thoughtful, self-deprecating, and a bit stodgy in a good-humored, self-aware way. His reading repertoire skews heavily white and male, hewing to the Eurocentric "canon" of the literary "establishment," and he seems less self-aware about that. I wish it were otherwise, but I understand he's a product of his generation and his education, as are we all. I most appreciated his perspectives on: how nonfiction should not aspire to "read like fiction"; how fun it is to write/read an essay that explores rather than argues; how to turn oneself into a character; the farce of the "lyric essay"; the revealing journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson; and the passion and pitfalls of James Baldwin.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael A. Van Kerckhove

    I picked this up at my Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago a little while back. I've been reading through it in between other books these last several weeks. It's been good to "talk shop" as I've been thinking about my own writing during All This, particularly my for-the-page-and-stage creative nonfiction that's been my wheelhouse for nearly two decades now. The book is now filled with penciled underlines and stars and brackets that I'll return to for inspiration and brain food. Especially as I work I picked this up at my Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago a little while back. I've been reading through it in between other books these last several weeks. It's been good to "talk shop" as I've been thinking about my own writing during All This, particularly my for-the-page-and-stage creative nonfiction that's been my wheelhouse for nearly two decades now. The book is now filled with penciled underlines and stars and brackets that I'll return to for inspiration and brain food. Especially as I work my way through the journaling and "spewing" that's been my writerly output these past couple months and and turn it all into Something. Overall, I appreciate Lopate's thoughts on story and craft and the state and history of the genre, as well as deeper dives into a few "rock stars" of the form.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Margaret1358 Joyce

    Lapote gives us an inside look at the mechanics of the literary essay and memoir genre, and as such, it's pointed and entertaining without being superficial. Along with several 'musts' of the genre(s), he gives insightful analyses of the styles of writers as varied as Montaigne, Emerson, Baldwin and Shields. A comprehensive ( 14 pages!!!) reading list is tacked on to the end. A good summation of his thought is found on page 208: "Broadly speaking, given all the risks of distortion and self-serv Lapote gives us an inside look at the mechanics of the literary essay and memoir genre, and as such, it's pointed and entertaining without being superficial. Along with several 'musts' of the genre(s), he gives insightful analyses of the styles of writers as varied as Montaigne, Emerson, Baldwin and Shields. A comprehensive ( 14 pages!!!) reading list is tacked on to the end. A good summation of his thought is found on page 208: "Broadly speaking, given all the risks of distortion and self-serving, many memoirists still manage to...turn their "I" into a believable, flawed character, and to situate that "I" within the proper proportions of self and world."

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