Frederick Busch is the author of six story collections and twelve novels, most recently The Night Inspector. He has been honored for his fiction by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a recipient of the PEN/Malamud Prize for achievement in the short story. The Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University, he lives in upstate New York.
Thought-provoking, honest and carefully considered, this reminiscence by novelist, critic and teacher Busch (Girls; Closing Arguments) will enhance any writer'sÄor reader'sÄreference library. The 16 chapters examine both quality fiction (Dickens, Melville, Thoreau, Hemingway, Graham Greene, John O'Hara, etc.) and Busch's writing life. Although Busch's reflections about other writers are spot on ("As ever, Dickens writes of memory; as ever, he seeks to state a long grudge or wound and then forgive or heal it; as ever, he cannot quite succeed"), what really galvanizes the reader are Busch's observations about writing as a career and his career in particular. The most rewarding essay here ("The Floating Christmas Tree") is a near flawless retrospective of his marriage, his early career and his sense of promise ("It was a most excellent Christmas because we were what we had dreamed to beÄin love and undefeated in New York"). In a similar vein is his almost penitential description of the writer's wife: "Writers' wives are those women who not only receive the hourly report of shifts in the weather of the soul; they are the women to whom vows are made with as much frequency as to the wives of gamblers, alcoholics, drug addicts, and politicians." Busch captures the struggle to create worthwhile fiction while also earning a living by doing so: "money is a letter from the world to an author about his work." Think of a more cerebral version of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and you'll have some notion of this valuable hybrid, which combines heartfelt memoir with an ardent love of literature. (Nov.)
Busch loves books, a fact that is evident almost immediately in this collection of essays. As a distinguished literary critic and a novelist whose works include Girls (LJ 2/1/97) and The Children in the Woods (LJ 11/1/93), he has made reading and writing the center of his life. Some of these essays are intensely personal, telling about himself and his father, while others focus on such writers as Melville, Hemingway, Dickens, and Kafka. The essays emphasize the connection of literature to life and the moral direction literature provides. Busch ignores the post-structuralists in his criticism, instead approaching the classics with near reverence and encouraging readers to look at them again. This departure from current critical theory is refreshing. Busch's writing, full of energy and passion, provides a positive model for those who aspire to the writing life. Recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄNancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
"Read this book if you are a beginning writer who wants the
assurance that others, too, have written, submitted, and been
rejected over and over again. Read it if you are an established
writer and want to see the continuing doubt and despair of those
who have produced great books."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Animated ruminations on the risks and rewards of writing. . . .
By conveying with passion and insight why a literary work moves
him, Busch excites the reader to read or reread books that have
long gone stale in our imaginations. Writing and reading are
reunited by an author who shows himself to be a sharp reader,
--Kirkus Reviews "Few literary aficionados are better qualified than Busch to write about the writing life. . . . Busch knows fiction inside and out, both as a perceptive reader and a versatile writer, and he forges a powerful philosophy of literature over the course of sixteen vibrant essays."
--Booklist "Think of a more cerebral version of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and you'll have some notion of this valuable hybrid, which combines heartfelt memoir with an ardent love of literature."
--Publishers Weekly A New York Times Notable Book