Monday, August 28, 2006

Brush up on your Shakespeare

If you want to improve your writing, here's some good advice: Read. Read a lot. Read good books.

To guide you on the righteous reading path and find out what to look for along the way, you might want to start with the aptly named Francine Prose's book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them, which was reviewed in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review .

Prose notes that one difficulty faced by writing teachers like me is the lack of interest many students show in reading. I agree. I think one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read...and pay attention to what you read...what works, what doesn't, how they do it.

Prose points out that writers have always learned from their predecessors: “They studied meter with Ovid, plot construction with Homer, comedy with Aristophanes.” In other words, says reviewer Emily Barton, it helps to read the masters: “You can assume that if a writer’s work has survived for centuries, there are reasons why this is so, explanations that have nothing to do with a conspiracy of academics plotting to resuscitate a zombie army of dead white males.”

Reading Shakespeare and other "dead white males" is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but there are plenty of good modern writers out there too. Click on my profile to see some of my favorite authors.

Happy reading!


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Dan Harris said...

I couldn't help myself:

"Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow

Just declaim a few lines from Othella
And they'll think you're a hell of a fella
If your blonde won't respond when you flatter 'er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopatterer

If she fights when her clothes you are mussing
What are clothes? Much ado about nussing
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kow-tow"

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter, featured in Kiss Me, Kate

Postmodern Sass said...

I have a book on great insults from

Comes in handy quite frequently!

Phil Wolff said...

I love that Cole Porter song.