Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction

by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
New York: Random House, 2013
Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and Richard Todd, long-time magazine and book editor who teaches in the MFA program at Goucher College, have a working writer/editor relationship going back to 1973 when they met at the offices of “The Atlantic Monthly.” In “Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction,” the two share the story of their years laboring side-by-side as well as the knowledge about writing they have acquired along the way.

They both believe that while talent and inspiration certainly come into play, one can learn to write better. “Writing is revision. All prose responds to work.” As Kidder states, “We rarely get the kind of chance in life that rewriting offers, to revise our pasts, to take back what we’ve said and say it better before others hear it.” To make the most of that opportunity to make one’s words be the best they can be, Kidder and Todd offer advice on beginnings, narratives, essays, accuracy, style, and the challenge of editing and being edited. While the book is aimed at those who write non-fiction, the topics and advice will help fiction writers as well.

In reading this, one cannot help but feel that Kidder and Todd have both been blessed in their friendship and their working relationship. Their writer-editor relationship is amazing. As a writer, I can only wish that I had someone willing to work with me from inception to completion the way Todd works with Kidder. Yet, even those of us who have not been so fortunate can learn much from the way they do things: the methods that they employ, their willingness to write, and rewrite, and edit, and rewrite some more. 

“Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction” is a great writing book, inspiring as well as informative. They offer concrete writing advice for writers to utilize from the moment they read “Great Prose” as well as a compelling story of their own experience. It should be on every writer’s reading list.

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