Good Prose: The Art Of Nonfiction

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Good Prose: The Art Of Nonfiction

by Tracy Kidder

Random House Publishing Group | November 5, 2014 | Hardcover

Good Prose: The Art Of Nonfiction is rated 4 out of 5 by 1.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

Good Prose is an inspiring book about writing—about the creation of good prose—and the record of a warm and productive literary friendship. The story begins in 1973, in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston, where a young freelance writer named Tracy Kidder came looking for an assignment. Richard Todd was the editor who encouraged him. From that article grew a lifelong association. Before long, Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the first book the two worked on together, had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was a heady moment, but for Kidder and Todd it was only the beginning of an education in the art of nonfiction.
 
Good Prose explores three major nonfiction forms: narratives, essays, and memoirs. Kidder and Todd draw candidly, sometimes comically, on their own experience—their mistakes as well as accomplishments—to demonstrate the pragmatic ways in which creative problems get solved. They also turn to the works of a wide range of writers, novelists as well as nonfiction writers, for models and instruction. They talk about narrative strategies (and about how to find a story, sometimes in surprising places), about the ethical challenges of nonfiction, and about the realities of making a living as a writer. They offer some tart and emphatic opinions on the current state of language. And they take a clear stand against playing loose with the facts. Their advice is always grounded in the practical world of writing and publishing.
 
Good Prose—like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style—is a succinct, authoritative, and entertaining arbiter of standards in contemporary writing, offering guidance for the professional writer and the beginner alike. This wise and useful book is the perfect companion for anyone who loves to read good books and longs to write one.

Praise for Good Prose
 
“Smart, lucid, and entertaining.”The Boston Globe
 
“You are in such good company—congenial, ironic, a bit old-school—that you’re happy to follow [Kidder and Todd] where they lead you.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“[A] well-structured, to-the-point, genuinely useful, and fun-to-read guide to writing narrative nonfiction, essays, and memoir . . . Crisp, informative, and mind-expanding.”Booklist  
 
“A gem . . . The finer points of creative nonfiction are molded into an inspiring read that will affect the would-be writer as much as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Stephen King’s On Writing. . . . This is a must read for nonfiction writers.”Library Journal
 
“As approachable and applicable as any writing manual available.”—Associated Press

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 224 pages, 9.5 × 6.34 × 0.96 in

Published: November 5, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400069750

ISBN - 13: 9781400069750

Found in: Reference and Language

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from For the love of good prose Life of Pi author Yann Martel has referred to a “terrible piece of writing, irredeemably blighted by immaturity” that he once wrote and compared it to finding a violin; “the sound I made was perhaps terrible – but what a beautiful instrument!” I thought of that line, as well as Dr. Samuel Johnson’s famous saying (“No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”) while reading Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. Subtitled “Stories from a lifetime of writing and editing,” this sensible book by the well-known writer Kidder and his longtime editor at The Atlantic Todd does indeed make beautiful music for anyone who is in love with the English language and good writing. It’s also a reminder – to the serious writer and editor and the person who just loves to read – of what good writing should be all about. Of what Neil Peart, drummer of the rock band Rush and author himself as well as someone who appreciates fine writing, had to say in response to Johnson: “No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for love.” John Updike also had an answer for Johnson. Good Prose relates how the famous American author once wrote about how baseball great Ted William’s detractors accused him of not being a “clutch hitter” and Updike responded: “Insofar as the clutch hitter is not a sportswriter’s myth, he is a vulgarity, like a writer who writes only for money.” Perhaps the great and tortured genius David Foster Wallace summed up what great writing really is, looping back nicely to what Peart had to say about the subject. Kidder and Todd write of the memorial service for Wallace where the novelist Zadie Smith quoted the writer as having said “the big difference between good art and so-so art lies somewhere in the art’s heart’s purpose: the agenda of the consciousness behind the text. It’s got something to do with love. With having the discipline to talk out the part of yourself that can love, instead of the part that just wants to be loved.” There’s a lot of love pouring out from both Kidder and Todd in Good Prose. The book is intelligently and interestingly arranged: part writing advice, part conversation between the two writers, part reflection on their professional lives. It also includes some candid observations, such as Kidder’s revelation that the writer who does not acknowledge the “power of luck has to be deluded.” Good Prose has some very enlightened passages, such as how “journalese” sometimes uses nouns as adjectives in the interests of brevity. The habit violates a grammatical rule, the authors say, as well as “the rhythms of speech. Good readers and good writers use both eyes and ears. And for a reader who hears the words, the shorter sentence actually takes longer to register. It is hard to hear, and thus the reader resists. Sometimes longer is shorter.” The next few pages delve into the necessity, sometimes, of splitting long sentences into shorter ones – one of this writer’s biggest problems. Great writers like Proust and Woolf may get away with long sentences, Kidder and Todd write, but “clarity can sometimes be achieved simply by giving every idea a sentence of its own.” The book nicely ends with a few pages on usage and reminds readers how English changes constantly, and how words once shunned like development, hopefully and finalize are now fully accepted. Having conceded that, the writers do list some words and phrases that they would “happily expunge from the language.” Among them are a few I would be only too pleased to take giant chisel to and expunge away, especially corporate nonsense words like “incentivize” and “incent.” There are those who treat the English language with tender loving care. Others prefer rape.
Date published: 2013-03-13

– More About This Product –

Good Prose: The Art Of Nonfiction

by Tracy Kidder

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 224 pages, 9.5 × 6.34 × 0.96 in

Published: November 5, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400069750

ISBN - 13: 9781400069750

Read from the Book

INTRODUCTION We met in Boston, at the offices of The Atlantic Monthly. Neither of us can remember the date, but it must have been around the time our fi rst joint effort as writer and editor was published, in July 1973. By then The Atlantic was 117 years old. You sensed lineage when you walked up to its headquarters, an old brownstone on the corner of Arlington and Marlborough streets, facing the Public Garden. It was prime real estate, but it was also in Boston, not New York or Los Angeles. This was a magazine headquarters that seemed to say it was untouched by commerce, like the wealthy Boston matron who, in an old joke, says, “We don’t buy our hats, we have our hats.” A boiler room clamor faintly tolled in the offi ces upstairs, which had achieved High Shabbiness: faded mementos on the walls, layers of discolored paint on the ornate moldings, threadbare carpeting. The building once, in the era of Silas Lapham, had been a single-family mansion, and much of the fl oor plan had survived—many small rooms in back, in what must have been the servants’ quarters, and in front, offi ces with fi replaces that editors used now and then when the Boston winter outperformed the heating plant. It was an era that in memory seems closer to The Atlantic’s distant past than to our present, an era of typewriters and secretaries—mostly young, wry women with fi rst-class educations trying to find their way into publishing careers. There were a few older
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From the Publisher

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

Good Prose is an inspiring book about writing—about the creation of good prose—and the record of a warm and productive literary friendship. The story begins in 1973, in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston, where a young freelance writer named Tracy Kidder came looking for an assignment. Richard Todd was the editor who encouraged him. From that article grew a lifelong association. Before long, Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the first book the two worked on together, had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was a heady moment, but for Kidder and Todd it was only the beginning of an education in the art of nonfiction.
 
Good Prose explores three major nonfiction forms: narratives, essays, and memoirs. Kidder and Todd draw candidly, sometimes comically, on their own experience—their mistakes as well as accomplishments—to demonstrate the pragmatic ways in which creative problems get solved. They also turn to the works of a wide range of writers, novelists as well as nonfiction writers, for models and instruction. They talk about narrative strategies (and about how to find a story, sometimes in surprising places), about the ethical challenges of nonfiction, and about the realities of making a living as a writer. They offer some tart and emphatic opinions on the current state of language. And they take a clear stand against playing loose with the facts. Their advice is always grounded in the practical world of writing and publishing.
 
Good Prose—like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style—is a succinct, authoritative, and entertaining arbiter of standards in contemporary writing, offering guidance for the professional writer and the beginner alike. This wise and useful book is the perfect companion for anyone who loves to read good books and longs to write one.

Praise for Good Prose
 
“Smart, lucid, and entertaining.”—The Boston Globe
 
“You are in such good company—congenial, ironic, a bit old-school—that you’re happy to follow [Kidder and Todd] where they lead you.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“[A] well-structured, to-the-point, genuinely useful, and fun-to-read guide to writing narrative nonfiction, essays, and memoir . . . Crisp, informative, and mind-expanding.”—Booklist  
 
“A gem . . . The finer points of creative nonfiction are molded into an inspiring read that will affect the would-be writer as much as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Stephen King’s On Writing. . . . This is a must read for nonfiction writers.”—Library Journal
 
“As approachable and applicable as any writing manual available.”—Associated Press

About the Author

Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Strength in What Remains, My Detachment, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder lives in Massachusetts.
 
Richard Todd was educated at Amherst and Stanford. He has spent many years as a magazine and book editor, and has written articles on a wide range of cultural themes for Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among others. He is the author of a previous book, The Thing Itself, and he teaches in the MFA program at Goucher College.

Editorial Reviews

“Smart, lucid, and entertaining.” — The Boston Globe   “You are in such good company—congenial, ironic, a bit old-school—that you’re happy to follow [Kidder and Todd] where they lead you.” — The Wall Street Journal   “[A] well-structured, to-the-point, genuinely useful, and fun-to-read guide to writing narrative nonfiction, essays, and memoir . . . Crisp, informative, and mind-expanding.” — Booklist     “A gem . . . The finer points of creative nonfiction are molded into an inspiring read that will affect the would-be writer as much as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Stephen King’s On Writing. . . . This is a must read for nonfiction writers.” — Library Journal   “As approachable and applicable as any writing manual available.” —Associated Press “ Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction takes us into the back room behind the shop, where strong, effective, even beautiful sentences are crafted. Tracy Kidder and his longtime editor, Richard Todd, offer lots of useful advice, and, still more, they offer insight into the painstaking collaboration, thoughtfulness, and hard work that create the masterful illusion of effortless clarity.” —Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern “ Good Prose offers consummate guidance from one of our finest writers and his longtime editor. Explaining that ‘t
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