Richard Cohen is the former publishing director of Hutchinson and Hodder & Stoughton and the founder of Richard Cohen Books. Works that he has edited have gone on to win the Pulitzer, Booker, and Whitbread/Costa prizes, and more than twenty have been #1 bestsellers. The author of By the Sword, an award-winning history of swordplay, and Chasing the Sun, a wide-ranging narrative account of the star that gives us life, he was for two years program director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature and for seven years a visiting professor in creative writing at the University of Kingston-upon-Thames. He has written for The New York Times and most leading London newspapers, and is currently at work on a history of historians. He lives in New York City.
For anyone who has ever identified with a hero or heroine, been seduced by a strong opening sentence, or been powerfully moved by a story’s end, How to Write Like Tolstoy is a thought-provoking journey inside the minds of the world’s most accomplished storytellers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King.
“Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitating them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”—Richard Cohen
Behind every acclaimed work of literature is a trove of heartfelt decisions. The best authors put painstaking—sometimes obsessive—effort into each element of their stories, from plot and character development to dialogue and point of view.
What made Nabokov choose the name Lolita? Why did Fitzgerald use first-person narration in The Great Gatsby? How did Kerouac, who raged against revision, finally come to revise On the Road? Veteran editor and teacher Richard Cohen draws on his vast reservoir of a lifetime’s reading and his insight into what makes good prose soar. Here are Gabriel García Márquez’s thoughts on how to start a novel (“In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book”); Virginia Woolf offering her definition of style (“It is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words”); and Vladimir Nabokov on the nature of fiction (“All great novels are great fairy tales”).
Cohen has researched the published works and private utterances of our greatest authors to discover the elements that made their prose memorable. The result is a unique exploration of the act and art of writing that enriches our experience of reading both the classics and the best modern fiction. Evoking the marvelous, the famous, and the irreverent, he reveals the challenges that even the greatest writers faced—and shows us how they surmounted them.
What others are saying:
tons of fun, a lighthearted look at the great literature of the Western world. Highly recommended. ~ Tiffany Reisz
An elegant, insightful primer for writers, as well as an instruction manual for readers ... ~ Andrea Engle
utterly delightful - packed with erudition, wit and anecdote ~ Emily Mccully
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