Chris's Reviews > The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
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's review
Jun 24, 2008

really liked it
Read in May, 2008

This succeeds On Moral Fiction, which--as I understand it--elucidates more clearly his grudge against postmodern fiction. Suffice it to say that Gardner expects fiction to mean, and the ever-clever prattle of elusive postmodernism raises his hackles. In his words, "in all great fiction, primary emotion...must sooner or later lift off from the particular and be transformed into an expression of what is universally good about human life."

I could quibble with that and with his sense of his own literary giantdom, but it's hard to bother when what remains here is so right on. Gardner is primarily concerned with establishing and maintaining the fictive dream, and much of his advice lends itself to a more conventional, "classic" styleof narrative, which shouldn't suggest that this won't be of use to writers of any kind. This book is brilliant both as an exploration of what fiction is/does and as a practical handbook. Whether he's walking you through hypothetical plots and the myriad choices one makes in constructing them, pointing and shouting at common errors, or laying out exercises for exploring voice and genre, he's doing so with profluence (seemingly his favorite word), with humor, and with the same meticulous mastery that makes Grendel one of my favorite books. Highly recommended for readers and writers alike.

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