Reading Like a Writer, by Franc.ine Prose


Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, presents mostly a good case for the value of reading.  She also raises a question: “Can creative writing be taught?” Even if she had not come right and said no it cannot, there is no real evidence presented that suggest that it can be taught.

Prose has nothing kind to say about writing workshops but doesn’t hesitate to mention that she has taught them and suggests that today’s students are different, asking us to imagine “Kafka enduring the seminar in which his classmates inform him that, frankly, they just don’t believe the part about the guy waking up one morning to find he’s a giant bug.”

Prose may have felt this example suggested something about the importance of being believable, but when Kafka really did write about waking up as a bug it was interesting and insightful.

The had eleven chapters. 1. Close Reading, 2. Words, 3. Sentences, 4. Paragraphs, 5. Narration, 6. Character, 7. Dialogue, 8. Details, 9. Gesture, 10, Learning from Chekhov, 11. Reading for Courage.

I did not like the book and felt the author was not really “entertaining and edifying” as some reviews suggest. I read this because I try to read books on how to write occasionally to make sure that I am gaining everything I can from what I read but this book did nothing for me in reaching that goal. I did like the quotes the author has used shown below and they put across much of what she must have intended for this book.


“Words are the raw material from which literature is crafted.”

I have always found that the better the book I’m reading, the smarter I feel, or at least, the more able I am to imagine that I might someday be smarter.

Like most - maybe all writers-, I learned to write by writing, and by example, and by reading books.”

“Language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint.”