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The Writer's Voice (Norton Lecture)

Alvarez, A.

W. W. Norton and Company
Published:November 30, 2004

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Description: From Publishers Weekly
Based primarily on lectures given at the New York Public Library in October 2002, this slim, erudite guide is intended to help aspiring writers achieve an authentic voice and readers to recognize it. Veteran author Alvarez (The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, etc.) adopts the preachy tone of a learned sage discussing the rigors of style, the role of literary infatuation and the merits of literary emulation. In the first chapter, Alvarez cites Sylvia Plath as an example of a poet who found her authentic voice only in the last months of her life. He goes on to discuss how to avoid mannered rhetoric and cliché, and to outline the difference between writers who "carve" their work with extensive revision and those who "model" it (a distinction he borrows from Auden). The second chapter concerns the writer's (and reader's) ear and sense of rhythm, with examples from John Donne, Andrew Marvell and Shakespeare. The final chapter centers on how the reader places a writer in his or her historical context and on combating fads and trends in criticism. Here Alvarez rails against the anti-intellectualism of the beat generation, the rise of theory and the present day's "terror of elitism." Alas, Alvarez overcompensates, to the point where his own voice seems old-fashioned: full of truisms, predictable in its tastes and advice, and rather patronizing.
Copyright # Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description:
Reflections on writing from a master.

For a writer, voice is the problem that never lets you go. For a reader, voice is a profound mystery. What is it? How does it develop and why should it even matter? How does the reader hear and respond to an authentic voice, and what happens when the cult of personality threatens to subvert it? These are some of the slippery questions The Writer's Voice addresses with confidence and clarity.

Aspiring young writers often confuse voice with stylishness, but the voice that matters has the whole weight of a life, however young, behind it. In this compelling book, renowned poet, author, and critic A. Alvarez defines "voice" as the vehicle by which a writer expresses his aliveness, hooks his readers, and keeps them listening. These powerful reflections from a lifetime's experience belong alongside John Gardner's The Art of Fiction, E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, and William Zinsser's On Writing Well.

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