Reading Like a Writer

  • Carolyn Harris Zukowski
    • Book Reviews
    • Francine Prose
    • Harper Perennial, 2007
    • ISBN 0060777052

She was beautiful and straight-spined when I bought her, but now my copy of Reading Like a Writer is trashed. Filled with sand. Stained with juice and greased with suntan lotion. If you’re a writer, and you want a little fling while you’re on vacation, this is the book for an affair to remember. Francine’s (can I call you Francine?) prose isn’t filled with elitist ideas, or fussy models to follow. It’s more of the straight talk that we writers actually need. She makes us doubt what we learned in writing class, giving us examples of where telling instead of showing actually works. Perhaps the best part of this book is her reading list, which reacquaints us with lost loves, and reignites our passion for reading.

To talk to another writer about sentences feels like forging a connection based on the most intimate and arcane sort of shop-talk, much the way mathematicians might bond on the basis of a shared admiration for some obscure, elegant theorem. Every so often I’ll hear writers say that there are other writers they would read if for no other reason than to marvel at the skill with which they can put together the sort of sentences that move us to read closely, to disassemble and reassemble them, much the way a mechanic might learn about an engine by taking it apart.

—from Reading Like a Writer, Chapter Three: Sentences