Thumbs up for Write Like the Masters: Emulating the Best of Hemingway, Faulkner, Salinger, and Others by William Cane. Nonfiction/writing.
This book made me want to read Balzac. And that’s an impressive enough accomplishment that I could stop there. But, no, I won’t, because in truth I think this is one of the most useful books on style for fiction writers that I’ve ever read. It smells distinctly of academia (behold footnotes!) yet it’s deeply practical. Each chapter discusses the most distinctive writing techniques of a pleasingly wide variety of authors—from Balzac to King by way of Melville and Philip K. Dick—with each short section elucidating a single technique, analyzing examples, and making suggestions about how the technique can be incorporated into modern fiction. There’s a great range of stuff here, from “What you can learn from Tarzan” to “Mesmerizing readers with death and destruction,” courtesy of Tom Wolfe. It seems inevitable that any writer will find tricks to inspire them.
Looking at [the fifth paragraph of Moby-Dick], one biographer compared Melville’s work to the best of poetry. “In the long second sentence, the range of alliterated initial consonant sounds mimics the ‘blended noises’ of men laboring on the docks…seven pairs and one triplet of alliterated words that perfectly convey the ceaseless repetition of the dockside work…He achieves here a mastery of verbal effects that one expects from only the most accomplished poetry.” A modern writer may wonder whether he has the nerve to dare anything quite so bold. Melville has thrown down the gauntlet though few have been the brave souls who have picked it up. Yet the careful use of alliteration appears in some of the most powerful prose works of the twentieth century, including novels by Nabokov, Bradbury and Roth. Often the best use of alliteration, however, is that which readers do not consciously notice.
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