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The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  198 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A writer may have a story to tell, a sense of plot, and strong characters, but for all of these to come together some key questions must be answered. What form should the narrator take? An omniscient, invisible force, or one--or more--of the characters? But in what voice, and from what vantage point? How to decide? Avoiding prescriptive instructions or arbitrary rules, Chr ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Graywolf Press
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Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I keep going back to this craft book to remind myself that there is no right answer. Only the best answer for now. "A story—a novel, in particular—is an imperfect thing. So in the end, is a narrative strategy, no matter how airtight it appears, how neatly form and content complicate and complement each other."
Crystal King
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
If you are a writer, get this book ASAP. Castellani is brilliant and this book is a serious gem for any writer looking to understand point of view and writing perspective.
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who loves to write, for anyone who loves to read about writing, this book is a pearl. Using a wide range of texts, from E.R. Forster, Nabokov & Dostoyevsky, to Grace Paley, Lorrie Moore and Virginia Woolf (and everything in between), Chris Castellani examines and illuminates choices of narrator, what effect each one has, what makes different perspectives successful or not for different stories, all in a clever and entertaining fashion.

It is a MUST READ for any writer on an essential
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I was taking this book with me everywhere, reading it over breakfasts, at lunch, on the train, thoroughly engaged by just how excited Castellani got about the subject matter - about as far from dry, academic text as you can get, so I’m reading and re-reading, flipping back and forth and skipping around the many different ways to approach Story and how to tell it. And then – and then! Reading on the train, getting off at my stop, barely pausing in my read, the book leaped – leaped! – no, it wasn’
Alissa Hattman
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for writers considering who tells the story and at what distance. I particularly appreciated that Castellani talks about power and the politics of perspective. His writing is warm and insightful and he provides thoughtful examples on point-of-view from E.M. Foster, Grace Paley, Tayeb Salih, Lorrie Moore, and others. A wonderful craft book.
Robert Wechsler
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
a perfect book to get one thinking about the which and how of narration. It answers no questions, which is appropriate to this issue.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Part literary criticism, part craft book. I couldn't put this book down.
Angela Boyd
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book really helped me think about the nuance of perspective - how the narrator can stand alone, how the narrator can fuse with characters. This is the thing I’ve been struggling with in my novel-in-progress and while I’ve had no epiphanies, I do feel closer to figuring out how this needs to work for these particular characters in this particular project.
Lynne Griffin
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lots of insight in this special little book. Part of the Graywolf "the art of series" edited by Charles Baxter. Chris Castellani does a terrific job broadening the writer's understanding of point of view.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
This is a short book focusing on narration. I think it's interesting to reflect on who tells stories, and how who tells stories affects the story itself. The author uses literary examples as a way to illustrate different methods of perspective telling, in a helpful manner (you don't have to be familiar with the book he is using to illustrate something, but it is helpful if you are familiar). One of my favorite characteristics is the way the book illustrates how a good story trumps flaws of a mor ...more
Elizabeth  Higginbotham

The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani gives writers much to think about as he approaches the issue of point of view. Who is the person telling the story? I read three of Castellani’s novels, so I know he can shape a story. The insights are powerful in terms of consider how to approach writing. It is not just first, second or third person, but the voice you selected. It takes work to identify how one wants to share how they see the world. It took a while to read it, but I did finish it
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If I were to recommend one book to read out of The Art of series, Perspective would be a top choice. Castellani wrestles us through a variety of narrative strategies in published works that show “who tells the story” is not always an easy determination. He warns us readers may not know how but will know if a narrator to the story is off kilter. While craft choices are not easy, he also encourages writers to take risks. “The big problem is that, of all the crimes a writer can commit, playing it s ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-how-to
This is not my favorite book on perspective. There is some great discussion of perspective in a Lorrie Moore short story collection midway through, but that's after a really lengthy discussion of E.M. Forster, which, to me, misses the point of more contemporary writing. Perspective is such a vivid and powerful tool for use in 21st century writing, that I think this book misses the mark by not talking about more recent progression in what makes voice powerful in writing today. I was disappointed ...more
D. Arlene
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought it was an interesting read. Don't read it if you're looking for an instructional book. This book analyzes the different ways writers use pov (point of view) to progress the narrative and develop it by looking at specific texts.
I'm working through the entire series (the ones relating to fiction/nonfiction anyway).
It was good. I'd recommend it.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sometimes humourous, sometimes academic view in the role of narrator and perspective in writing. While geared towards novels and short stories and a little sluggish in the first third, I was pleasantly surprised but the shift to less known literature and plays (Angels In America) in the last bit. A fascinating examination of writing indeed.
Matt Sautman
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Castellani provides here an easily digestible text on point of view that can provide a basis for scholars who engage in literary criticism and creative writers who are interested in having a stronger understanding of their craft. The Art of Perspective’s strength lies in Castellani’s ability to gesture towards narration’s affect on readers.
Libre Livre
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely fantastic. I have no words. Or rather, I’ll save them for my own pages.

This has been a slow companion read for me, and will be a gift for any writer who makes the time for it and the work.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not as good as some of the others in The Art of....series.
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A brilliant discussion of how to choose and use perspective in storytelling. A must for all existing and inspiring writers.
Daniel Goldhagen
Good introduction!

Too short (but that's the format), still, it's a lively read and quite insightful.
A good introduction to a complex topic.
Sarah Goldhagen
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Art of yet!
Charlie Quimby
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A quick and useful read but supplemental on the topic, not essential.
Billy Colley
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brief look at perspective highlighting some interesting examples from some fantastic authors. There isn't a lot of specific knowledge imparted, but what is there is well reinforced with examples.
James Smith
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
60% | okay (B-)
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a great craft book. It’s so intelligent and never preachy but instead reflective and thoughtful. Highly recommend!
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own, non-fiction
Wonderful - and it reminded me to read more Lorrie Moore.
Milton Brasher-Cunningham
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Though Christopher Castellani is writing to writers, which was my primary reason for picking up the book, I found a great deal here to challenge how we tell our stories, whether or not we are wrting them down. And though he was speaking mostly of writing fiction, which is not what I write for the most part, he gave me so much to think about when it comes to how I tell a story, because that's what good nonfiction is as well: a narrative. We are living out stories on a daily basis. How we tell the ...more
Colin Marks
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
As Castellani says, "in devising and drafting a narrative strategy, an author makes all sorts of craft decisions that influence how the work will be read and enjoyed". He adds that the language can seduce the reader, maintaining the staying power of the work. It's both of these that won me over - the book opens with his account of an incident in Philadelphia, the quality of the writing and the questions posed made it clear that this book will be truly memorable. He goes on to analyse the work of ...more
Peter Schmidt
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An accessible and deeply intelligent guide to think about what's at stake in the way the narrator tells a story. Valuable to both writers and readers, especially if you love fiction! Includes lovely reflections on particular authors and books: Forster, Woolf, Faulkner, Paley, Kushner, Lorrie Moore, Chimamanda Adichie, Tayeb Salih (Season of Migration to the North). Plus thoughts on narrators or characters we love to hate but can't stop listening to—the "sick man" who gives us Notes from Undergro ...more
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-to-read
I won this book or else I might not have ever read it. I'm no aspiring writer and not even a very wide literary reader! So it was with quiet enjoyment that I was even able to follow along and get some great thought provoking stimulation. A short book, only around 100 pages size 4x5 give or take but packed with lots of depth, analysis, and angles for those who /are/ looking to tell a story and trying to figure out just WHO is going to tell it! Very nice! Definitely heightened my awareness.
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Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He lives in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, one of the country's leading independent creative writing centers. He is the author of three novels: All This Talk of Love (2013) -- a New York Times Editors' Choice -- A Kiss from Maddalena (2003)--winner of the Massachusetts Book Awar ...more

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“she would indeed like to tell that kind of story, except that it requires a plot, “the absolute line between two points which [she’s] always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” What’s despicable about the absolute line between two points is its danger of becoming a single story. For Paley, there was no “defining” experience of women or Jews or New York or activists or the 1960s, or of one female Russian Jewish activist-writer in New York in 1965. There were stops and starts, inconsistencies, loyalties forged and broken, discordant voices. People made themselves up as they went along. In the meantime, there was daily life to endure.” 0 likes
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