Tuesday, November 25, 2008

THE ART OF FICTION by John Gardner

The Art of Fiction is John Gardner's book on how young writers can improve their fiction writing. This book is divided into two sections: the first covers literary theory, and the second deals with technique, errors, and plotting. 

Gardner, who was a teacher as well as an author, is extremely high-minded. He sets very high standards for writing, which is good. But he's one of those people who thinks you need to take college courses in Shakespeare in order to appreciate Shakespeare. His instructions on writing naturally and not trying to write above yourself often come across as pretentious and hypocritical, as he gets pretty pretentious himself from time to time. 

So many talented writers who didn't study literature or fiction in a university may well throw out the first half of the book, and that's fine. The second half, however, can be of benefit to most anyone. Gardner covers frequent errors, technique, and plotting, giving specific examples and explaining things well. 

Gardner is obviously much more concerned with the Hemingways and Faulkners of the world than the Stephen Kings and Michael Crichtons. Fine; take this book for what it is. Separate the wheat from the chaff and The Art of Fiction has something to help most writers improve.