I have a lot of issues with this book but, to be fair, I actually reference it in conversation all the time. I think it's worth a skim but most of it'...moreI have a lot of issues with this book but, to be fair, I actually reference it in conversation all the time. I think it's worth a skim but most of it's kind of common sense.
Schwartz makes approximately seven interesting points but he makes them repeatedly for some 230-odd pages. Sometimes he makes the same point in different ways and sometimes he makes the same point in the same way. During an especially repetitive section, I actually suspected that there'd been a printing error and I'd accidentally read the same chapter twice. Not so, unfortunately.
The author references some interesting studies but, as is typical with this sort of pop-psychology book, his conclusions often emphasize a causal relationship that isn't necessarily there and he leaves out important factors such as sample size. As a result, his findings often feel cheap and simplistic.
I was also put off by the privileged nature of his perspective. Nearly all of his examples involved Cape Cod vacations, luxury vehicles, and recreational shopping. I had trouble relating to this and it made me wonder about his intended audience-- I suppose that same audience who has too many opportunities and too much discretionary time to contemplate them.(less)
The funny thing is that I don't consider myself to be a literary or intellectual snob at all but I really feel that it is not reality television, not...moreThe funny thing is that I don't consider myself to be a literary or intellectual snob at all but I really feel that it is not reality television, not celebrity talk shows, and not pop punk records but instead this genre of books that will be the downfall of our civilization. The studies referenced in this book are sometimes fascinating (the only one I really remember is the online racial profiling test, that blew my mind) but are usually poorly cited. At best, they must leave even the most indiscriminate reader skeptical and, at worst, they seem to blatantly contradict Gladwell's argument (saved only by some fancy verbal footwork).
I think this genre of book is really popular because it allows people to feel clever and knowledgeable without having to do anything harder than pop a "book on tape" into their ipod at the gym. Maybe there's nothing wrong with that except that I worry that it's breeding this scary form of passive "learning" that doesn't involve asking questions or looking at primary sources at all and instead prizes this sort of indiscriminate trivia-munching that's worth little more than banal conversation fodder for Thanksgiving at Aunt Rosa's where we can all make outrageous claims together without the need to cite primary sources or even, you know, have a clue.
Or maybe I'm just being grumpy. That could be it, too. (less)
I think that someone who is thinking about fleeing the cube is a better audience for this book than someone who is already successfully freelancing. M...moreI think that someone who is thinking about fleeing the cube is a better audience for this book than someone who is already successfully freelancing. Most of the advice is common sense, but it's definitely recommended for anyone who's thinking about making the switch as the book somehow makes this crazy leap of faith feel a lot less crazy.(less)
This book is sometimes rambling, as these types of books often are, but Patricia Highsmith's prose is riveting... even when she's talking about plotti...moreThis book is sometimes rambling, as these types of books often are, but Patricia Highsmith's prose is riveting... even when she's talking about plotting and character development. It's a quick read and recommended for fans of her work as well as aspiring writers in this genre (or any genre).(less)
This book is a classic, but it was written in the 1970s and I think better writers have since copied Field's ideas and written stronger books that use...moreThis book is a classic, but it was written in the 1970s and I think better writers have since copied Field's ideas and written stronger books that use them. Syd Field may be a great screenwriter, but his writing in this book is not so hot. His phrasing is clunky, his chapters are disorganized and rambling, and his examples are sometimes difficult to follow. At times he contradicts himself from one paragraph to the next and at other times he repeats himself word-for-word, paragraph-for-paragraph over and over until you're ready to bang your head against the wall and scream, "I heard you the first three times!" The book often feels to me like Field was just rambling on at his kitchen table and someone transcribed his ramblings and then published it as a book without editing it first.
Anyway, there are some good principles in this book (which is why it's such a classic), but I think those basic principles are SO good that they have since been repeated by other writers and teachers to the point that they seem kind of obvious.
I'd still recommend this book to other aspiring screenwriters because it is a classic and there are some principles worth pulling out. If nothing else, it might be worth a read for the ridiculous scene in which Field has his screenwriting students construct a character... and then goes on to basically construct the entire character himself, dismissing his students' ideas and using his own.(less)