Category Archives: Writing

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee

Draft No. 4 Title: Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process
Author: John McPhee
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374142742
Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing Skills, Essays
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I have read books on reading. I have read books on writing as well. But off-late no book on writing has made me laugh and “Draft No. 4” managed to do that. It made me chuckle and kept my spirits high and also in its own way told me that it is okay to not get that sentence correct, that it is alright to not stress over punctuation sometimes and also that there will be times that you will not be able to write. It broke a lot of writing fallacies that are out there and made me see writing in a whole new way.

Also, if you have to learn about a subject, then why not turn to one of the very best? John McPhee is a professor of journalism at Princeton, writes for The New Yorker and has published over thirty books. Let me also tell you that “Draft No. 4” could have easily fallen in the trap of being preachy and pedantic, which it doesn’t. McPhee makes you see how writing is – truly is for those who are writers and also for those who want to become writers.

What I loved about the book is that I could identify with most of it. For instance, McPhee states that while you might write for only two to four hours a day, your mind is working twenty-four hours on the book. He also mentions of “the elegance in the less ambiguous ways” – for instance, the turn of the phrase or where to place the bracket words (he does get to technique as well).

This is a collection of essays that doesn’t take away from the joy of writing. It lends to it beautifully. He of course says and advises the way he has to, but also gives you room to come up with your comfort rules of writing. The ones that actually work for you. So why must you read this book then? Because it will open your mind to going back to the basics of writing (which is what every writer says but most don’t really know what they are talking about) and implement them in your way to your advantage. McPhee makes it seem simple (not without mentioning its cons and the power of writing to drive you crazy sometimes) and at the same time ironically tells you that your fourth draft perhaps will be the best one, ready to publish.

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The House that Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Title: The House that Spoke
Author: Zuni Chopra
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143427841
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the longest time, “The House that spoke” lay on my bookshelf and somehow there was no inclination to pick it up. One of the barriers was that it is written by a teenager and somehow that thought kept becoming an impediment till it did not. Till I picked up the book and finished it over a weekend and enjoyed it a lot at that.

Having said that, “The House that Spoke” also tries to pack in a lot in one book which at times does feel tedious but eventually grows on you. The book is about fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan who is instantly shown to be witty, intelligent and above-all perceptive. She lives in Kashmir with her mother in a house – which of course is a part of the title. The objects in the house converse with her. She isn’t new to magic. There are forces beyond her control that threaten to take over her life, the house and her beloved Kashmir.

The book has a lot of metaphors given Kashmir’s situation as of today and that is laudable. Zuni is very empathetic in her writing and that shows. I think that perhaps when you are younger you aren’t influenced by all the writing around you. Of course you read a lot but then again, it isn’t what drives your writing. Your experiences do and after reading this book, I think Zuni’s writing comes from a more personal space (as it should). The characters could have been culled out in a more interesting manner but I guess that can be ignored given it is her first book and she is only sixteen (I think). The writing though is powerful and I loved how the narrative of historic fiction was blended in seamlessly. “The House that Spoke” will charm you, move you, and also make you think about what we’ve done to heaven on earth.

David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations (The Last Interview Series) by David Foster Wallace

david-foster-wallace-the-last-interview-and-other-conversations-by-david-foster-wallace Title: David Foster Wallace: The Last Interview: and Other Conversations
Author: David Foster Wallace and Others (Interviewers)
Publisher: Melville House
ISBN: 978-1612192062
Genre: Interviews, Authors
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There is something about David Foster Wallace that you cannot help but want to know more. He was barely forty-six when he committed suicide on September 12, 2008. He had suffered from depression for nearly twenty years and perhaps this was the reason he took his life. At the same time, you know what they say about geniuses, right? There has to be a spot of bother in them – they view the world quite differently from you and I and mostly most of them tend to veer off-course and live life on their terms, though not always to the best of the endings.

The Last Interview and Other Conservations is a wonderful concept introduced by Melville House Publishing. The series features a lot of writers and their last interviews – from Bradbury to Marquez to Vonnegut even, also Hemingway if you please. I have read most of them and then I decided it was the turn of David Foster Wallace. In these brief interviews, you will get a strong sense of the man and more importantly of the writer. Wallace seems so elusive – it’s almost like there is so much going on inside his head and you don’t have access to all of it – that is kind of frustrating but extremely interesting.

His views on things everything modern, political and technological is hilarious and often melancholic as well. Every individual interview in this collection brings another side to the writer and more so his works. At the same time, there is this overwhelming sense of gloom which pervades DFW and his works – one cannot seem to shake that off for sure, and that is more evident in these last set of conversations. I honestly feel that if you want to know more about the man, after reading some of his books, then this is the best place to start.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury Title: Zen in the Art of Writing
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Joshua Odell Editions
ISBN: 9781877741098
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Writing is not easy. Writing is not difficult either. It is perhaps the single most surreal experience. I write as well but not as often as I would like to. I keep stalling it. I do not put pen to paper when I should. I think most of the time I am just scared of how it will turn out. I am not confident of my skills and I should not doubt myself anyway but I do. Maybe that is why there are writers out there and then there are some of us who could learn a lesson or two from their lives.

“Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury was one book that I was waiting to read since a very long time. I wanted to but it ended up being just too expensive to pick up, till I finally did at the Flipkart Big Book Sale – BookMarkit at about eighty-four rupees.

What is this book? Why did I want to read it?

Well, for one this book is about writing by the master himself, Ray Bradbury. It is a collection of eleven essays and all centered on the craft and art of writing. Bradbury is one of my favourite writers. I think I have read almost everything that he has written, so there was no way that I was not going to read this one. Reading this book made me see my writer in a different light. It made me appreciate his craft a lot more than I would have done, had I not read this book.

What does Mr. Bradbury do in this book?

He takes on the process of writing. He urges people to go out there and write. He speaks of his experiences with writing and how that helped him become what he is – a celebrated writer. Ray Bradbury talks of how he listed nouns one after the other and they became ideas for his short stories and the very titles of his stories. The core of the book is also about how he came upon ideas for his stories and books and how to become a writer you cannot let go of your imagination and spirit.

There is a lot to take away from this book on writing than there is perhaps in any other book. Ray analyzes writing not as work but love and how that can enrich the creative process. There are lessons on success and failure and how it will not be easy for a writer all the time (although it does seem quite simple in today’s time and age given every second person is a writer). He takes apart the concept of muse, of how the writer should let ideas be and let ideas chase him, of how important it is to write and not have guidelines such as “I will write thousand words a day” and many more that an emerging writer can contemplate and work on.

All said and done, I highly recommend this book not just to writers but for everyone who might want to know how to live life.

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Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, Expanded