By Jane Smiley

ISBN-10: 1400040590

ISBN-13: 9781400040599

Over a unprecedented twenty-year occupation, Jane Smiley has written all types of novels: secret, comedy, historic fiction, epic. “Is there something Jane Smiley can't do?” raves Time magazine. yet within the wake of 11th of September, Smiley faltered in her hitherto unflagging impulse to put in writing and determined to strategy novels from a unique perspective: she learn 100 of them, from classics comparable to the thousand-year-old Tale of Genji to fresh fiction via Zadie Smith, Nicholson Baker, and Alice Munro.

Smiley explores–as no novelist has ahead of her–the exceptional intimacy of studying, why a singular succeeds (or doesn’t), and the way the unconventional has replaced through the years. She describes a novelist as “right at the cusp among a person who is familiar with every thing and anyone who understands nothing,” but whose “job and ambition is to enhance a conception of the way it feels to be alive.”

In her inimitable style–exuberant, candid, opinionated–Smiley invitations us behind the curtain of novel-writing, sharing her personal conduct and spilling the secrets and techniques of her craft. She walks us step by step during the e-book of her latest novel, Good religion, and, in very important chapters on easy methods to write “a novel of your own,” deals valuable recommendation to aspiring authors. 

Thirteen methods of the unconventional may volume to a weird kind of autobiography. We see Smiley interpreting in mattress with a chocolate bar; mulling over plot twists whereas cooking dinner for her relations; even, on the age of twelve, devouring Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which she later discovered have been between her earliest literary types for plot and character.

And in a thrilling end, Smiley considers separately the only hundred books she learn, from Don Quixote to Lolita to Atonement, presenting her personal insights and sometimes arguable opinions. In its scope and gleeful eclecticism, her analyzing checklist is likely one of the so much compelling–and surprising–ever assembled.

Engaging, clever, occasionally irreverent, Thirteen Ways is key interpreting for a person who has ever escaped into the pages of a singular or, for that topic, desired to write one. In Smiley’s personal phrases, ones she came across herself turning to over the process her trip: “Read this. I guess you’ll like it.”

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A child, such as James in To the Lighthouse; a troubled man, such as Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway; a not very appealing person, such as Bernard in The Waves, can have as important and revealing experiences as any heroine of Dickens, any hero of Trollope. The author's job, according to Woolf, is to preserve exceptional 2 6 T H I R T E E N W A Y S O F L O O K I N G A T T H E N O V E L moments, not to award them to exceptional people. Woolf, it is well known, democratized the novel without herself being democratic— she was often snobbish and disdainful, and she liked to hang around people of her own class and intellectual attainments.

Don't like the author? Throw the book away. Think this obscure book is better than that famous one? State your opinion. Disagree with the very respected author? You may, because the book is in your hands, in your power, which makes you the author's equal. But the book itself you cannot destroy. WHAT IS A NOVEL? Imagine the roster of heroes and heroines that novels have carried around the world. David Copperfield stands beside Frankenstein and not far from Scarlett O'Hara and Count Dracula, Anna Karenina, Scrooge, Uncle Tom, Jo March, Becky Sharp, the Count of Monte Cristo, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Elizabeth Bennet, Captain Bligh and Captain Ahab.

Thus are the moral lives of readers encouraged to develop complexity; thus are new characters born out of old ones. When Jean Rhys, who grew up in the Caribbean, read Jane Eyre, her direct experience of a world that she felt Charlotte Brontë had not understood caused her to reimagine the monstrous Mrs. Rochester as an abused and abandoned child, used as a commodity by her relatives in their attempt to ally themselves to Rochester's fortune. Rhys's novel, in turn, heralded a reconsideration of many aspects of European colonial exploitation in the Caribbean, which has resulted in astonishing works by such disparate authors as Paule Marshall, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat.

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13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley


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