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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reading Now: Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives

Reading now: Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives ~ Elizabeth Benedict
Contents: Part I: people we encountered -- "Why not say what happened?": remembering Miss Hardwick / Elizabeth Benedict -- Imagining influence / Robert Boyers -- Fathers / Jay Cantor -- Mentors in general, Peter Taylor in particular / John Casey -- Life in books / Maud Casey -- Annie Dillard and the writing life / Alexander Chee -- Snow globe / Jonathan Safran Foer -- When Julie met Deb / Julia Glass -- Tiger and the pelican: mentors Elizabeth Hardwick and Janice Thaddeus / Mary Gordon -- Moment / Arnon Grunberg -- Only plump the pillows / Margot Livesey -- Sontag’s rules / Sigrid Nunez -- In the absence of mentors/monsters: notes on writerly influences / Joyce Carol Oates -- Scholars and the pornographer / Carolyn See -- "But what I really love about this is this amazing game that you’ve invented": an appreciation of John Hawkes / Jim Shepard -- Munro country / Cheryl Strayed -- Mother country / Evelyn Toynton -- Seducer / Lily Tuck -- Harold Brodkey / Edmund White.

Part II: books we read -- Company / Michael Cunningham -- Five million head of cattle / Samantha Hunt -- On fat city / Denis Johnson -- Mad hope and mavericks / ZZ Packer -- Getting it. Deeply immersed. In awe. Learning. Reading Ms. McDermott. Appreciating beginnings. Still appreciating beginnings. Nailing it. / Anita Shreve -- Paper mentors / Martha Southgate -- Part III: times of our lives -- Coming of age at bread loaf / Christopher Castellani -- Please don’t write / Neil Gordon -- Storying / Dinaw Mengestu -- Growing pains / Caryl Phillips -- Iowa City, 1974 / Jane Smiley.

What do the reviewers of this book say @ Amazon.com:

Editorial Reviews

"Even when writing teacher Benedict is writing fiction, she's writing about writing.... So the subject of this irresistible anthology was a natural for her. People become writers by virtue of literary inspiration, be it a book, a place, or a mentor, so why not invite writers to write essays about their literary influences? The response was overwhelming and avid.... these exceptionally animated essays feel as though the writers couldn't get the words down quickly enough. And what an array of experiences and voices."-- Booklist

"A mesmerizing book of essays by famous pens who themselves were once helped -- or hurt -- by established talents as they tried to climb their way up the literary ladder. [Mentors, Muses & Monsters] beautifully captures the experience of being a literary aspirant -- wide-eyed, enchanted by words, and eager for the tutelage of a mentor -- one who's already scaled the temple wall and emerged, shining, in a turret."-- The Christian Science Monitor

"Every one of the essays here -- from Benedict's own remembrance of Elizabeth Hardwick to Christopher Castellani's "Coming of Age at Breadloaf" is wise and full of heart."-- Chicago Tribune

"Michael Cunningham relates his discovery of Mrs. Dalloway, the happy result of failing to impress a girl during high school.... Joyce Carol Oates tells us that she had no mentor but books.... And in terrific essays on the New York Review of Books and the Iowa Writers Workshop, Neil Gordon and Jane Smiley give us a sense...of how institutions conspire to turn ordinary human beings into award-winning authors."-- Bookforum (Robert P. Baird Nov. 5)

"Enthralling.... [a] lovingly compiled collection of essays."-- The Errant Aesthete

"This anthology is that rare gem, a collection whose whole is greater, even, than the sum of its parts. Where else could you read musings-about-muses, accompanied by juicy tales from deep inside the writing life, by 30 of the best minds of our generation, all between the covers of one book?"-- The San Francisco Chronicle

"The essays are not simply worshipful tributes to literary lions. Each writer shades in the nuances of character and experience that make his subject come to life, and each reads like a short story.... For the reader aspiring to sharpen his own craft, gem after gem emerges from this book's pages.... I haven't finished reading all the essays. In truth, I am reluctant to complete it, so deliciously rich and illuminating have I found each offering. I suspect any writer or serious reader will feel the same way."-- MV Times


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