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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
The Deptford Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Life on Mars
Jennifer Brown
The Family Under the Bridge
Natalie Savage Carlson

The Secret Miracle: The Novelist's Handbook

The Secret Miracle: The Novelist's Handbook - Daniel Alarcón Imagine a round table discussion with 54 well-known and fabulous writers: Aleksandar Hemon, Claire Messud, Rick Moody, Stephen King, Gary Shteyngart, Daniel Handler, Haruki Murakami, and so forth. A question is presented to the group about the process of writing a novel, and writers chime in with honest and thoughtful answers. This is The Secret Miracle.What I found most appealing about this book was the variation in answers. From Writing 101, aspiring authors are told to do this or that--i.e. find a quite place, stick with a routine, keep a journal, etc. Many books on the subject repeat these tips, telling the reader the most conducive way to write. And when it doesn't work for the reader, the newbie author is to assume they are doing something wrong. The Secret Miracle destroys any hope that there is one method to write. "Absolutely," answers one writer, while the next replies to the same question, "No. Never. Wouldn't dream of it."A little way into the book, I decided to keep a score sheet. I tallied answers I found to be good (1 point) and those which were right-on (2 points). It would be a way to discover my next favorite author, I hoped. The results: Aleksander Hemon scored the highest with 21, Jennifer Egan had 12 points, and Andrew Sean Greer, Tayari Jones, and Chris Abani tied with 5 each. Most authors scored at least one point, although a few did not. Murakami should have received a negative score for his highly evasive answers. Although entertaining, Murakami seemed to be dodging half the questions and giving snotty answers to the other half. My favorite, the Eeyore response, occurs when Murakami is asked if he has ever used a fictional character to draw a portrait of a real person (p. 183)? Murakami: "Sometimes I do. Nobody notices it anyway."Well, at least I learned something from the other 53 novelist.