224 pages, 9.5 × 6.34 × 0.96 in
November 5, 2014
Random House Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1400069750
ISBN - 13: 9781400069750
Read from the Book
INTRODUCTIONWe met in Boston, at the offices of The Atlantic Monthly. Neither of us can remember the date, but it must have been around thetime 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 onthe 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, likethe wealthy Boston matron who, in an old joke, says, “We don’t buy our hats, we have our hats.” A boiler room clamor faintlytolled in the offi ces upstairs, which had achieved High Shabbiness: faded mementos on the walls, layers of discolored paint onthe 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 andsecretaries—mostly young, wry women with fi rst-class educations trying to find their way into publishing careers. Therewere a few older women, two of them editors; one wore a hat at her desk
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.
“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 ‘the techniques of fiction never belonged exclusively to fiction,’ Kidder and Todd make a persuasive case that ‘no techniques of storytelling are prohibited to the nonfiction writer, only the