Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Alone With All That Could Happen by David Jauss

Title: Alone With All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom About the Craft of Fiction
Author: David Jauss
Enjoyment Rating: 6/10
Source: Hardcover purchased from Amazon
Referral: Required reading for my fiction seminar
Books I've read this year: 116

We busted through Alone With All That Could Happen in the first couple of weeks of my fiction seminar this semester. You know me-- if the book has a good story and interesting characters, I'm hooked; if not, it doesn't do much for me. For a "craft" book, this one is pretty good, but I'd never curl up with it for fun. Jauss is an interesting author because he lets his biases be known. He also occasionally points out problems in the craft of fiction, but doesn't really try to solve them (for example, he devotes a whole chapter to the problems of the term "point of view" because it can be used to indicate both who is speaking and how much of a character's mind is revealed, and he says that we really need new terms, but he doesn't try to define those new terms). He's the guy who says epiphanies are lazy and present tense should be used sparingly. I appreciated his voice as a writer, and I thought that one of the greatest strengths of the book is how he uses examples from stories to illustrate his points. I also really liked the chapter on how to put together a collection of short stories (how to order the stories) which is something I had never seen tackled in one of these "writing craft" books.

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