6.22.2008

Letters to a Young Novelist

Mario Vargas Ilosa's analogue to Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a concise, informative investigation of novel writing. In 12 letters, Ilosa examines the various elements of the novel, including style, narrotor, time, shifts, and stories within stories. The style is informal and chatty, and he peppers his advice with examples from across world literature. He uses examples primarily from Latin American novelists, which is both helpful and burdensome. Unless you are aware of many of these writers, Ilosa's explication of their work can be tough. He makes up a bit of the distance by explaining some plot, but Latin American fiction, like any body of literature from any culture, has its own rules, conceits, and influences. I found myself wishing I were more familiar with these texts so that I could better understand Ilosa's points. Regardless, though, he does an expert job of dissecting the essential parts of the novel, ones that must be contemplated before anyone sits down to write serious fiction.

If you like this, you might also like:

Dillard's The Writing Life
Forster's Aspects of the Novel
Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet

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