John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction

The Art of FictionThe Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers is Gardner’s classic text on ‘how to write’. Having said that, the incredibly arrogant tone and egotistical voice of Gardner drove me nuts, but I managed to plow through to the end.

The book is in two parts, the first is a collection of four essays on literature – titled ‘Notes on Literary-Aesthetic Theory’ – of which, the first two were engaging and insightful. The third essay was twice as long as any of the others and gave me the impression of how much Gardner is in love with his own ideas and how infallible he believes them to be… nothing for me, thank you. The content of the fourth didn’t engage me at all. The second part of the book – Notes on the Fictional Process – contained three chapters on writing ‘Common Errors’, ‘Technique’ and ‘Plotting’. Of these, only ‘Technique’ was useful and offered new input compared to most general writing books out there. The discussions on sentence rhythms was well constructed and I’d recommend this to many students of writing. The other chapters were somewhat dull and unnecessarily technical, again elaborating Gardner’s self-love of his own voice.

For those who are just starting out with creative writing or looking to brush up on the fundamentals, I’d recommend Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction, you can see my review of this excellent title here.

Samir

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4 thoughts on “John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction

  1. Haha I love this review, hilarious! ‘incredibly arrogant tone and egotistical voice’, love it. It’s always refreshing to read someone who isn’t afraid to criticise these guys who think they know everything there is to know about writing.

    1. Indeed. Being an “expert” in something is not a license to an inflated ego. The moment a person is no longer humble means the person is no longer willing to learn… I can’t stand such people, especially “educators”.

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