Synopses & Reviews
Over the course of his career, acclaimed author, teacher, and critic Ben Yagoda has uncovered one certain truth about writing: "Style matters." Indeed, it is frequently the case that our favorite writers entertain, move, and inspire us less by what they say than by how they say it.
Most books, including Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style, take a narrow view of style, suggesting that the only proper one is of plainness, simplicity, and transparency. But tell that to David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Don DeLillo, and other stylistic risk takers!
While not a "how-to" manual, The Sound on the Page offers practical and incisive help for writers on identifying and developing a distinctive style and voice. Drawing on interviews with more than forty authors -- Tobias Wolff, Elmore Leonard, Michael Chabon, Cristina García, Dave Barry, Camille Paglia, Junot Díaz, Margaret Drabble, and Bill Bryson among them -- Yagoda discusses:
- Conscious and unconscious ways writers approach style, from Bebe Moore Campbell on her pointed use of Black English to Christopher Hitchens's penchant for adverbs
- The influence of writers on writers, including Susan Orlean on Ian Frazier, James Wolcott on Manny Farber, and Frank Kermode on William Empson
- The impact of tools on style, featuring Cynthia Ozick and Harold Bloom grumbling in harmony about the word processor and its discontents
Filled with insights from outstanding writers and close readings of their works, The Sound on the Page is an essential book for all aspiring and experienced writers, as well as for readers who are interested in learning how their favorite writers approach the craft.
“[Ben Yagoda] is witty and offhandedly erudite and unafraid to read between the lines...” Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and Secret Parts of Fortune
“This is an ingenious and memorable exploration of writings soul...” Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo
“Ben Yagoda [is] the best kind of close reader, attentive to writerly choices that most of us take for granted.” Wall Street Journal
“A shrewd, welcome meditation on literary style… that rarest of tomes: a splendidly written book about writing.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“This entertaining and instructive book should be part of any writing collection.” Library Journal
“A stylish exploration of developing a distinctive voice and writing style.” Chicago Tribune
“...the right mix of seriousness and wit, anecdote and insight.” Billy Collins
“...offers not only the authors amazingly informative narrative, but points us toward...the trial and error inherent in creativity.” Ann Beattie
The Sound on the Page offers an in-depth look at the importance of a writer's individual style or "voice," based on interviews with more than forty outstanding contemporary writers. This book is an incredibly rich, readable book about style and voice. Yagoda points out to us that Elmore Leonard and Toni Morrison avoid adverbs, while Christopher Hitchens uses them. Title also features a fantastic collection of writers talking about writing, with interviews with more than forty in all.
About the Author
Ben Yagoda is the author of About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Will Rogers. He is coeditor, with Kevin Kerrane, of The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The American Scholar, Esquire, and many other publications. Yagoda directs the journalism department at the University of Delaware, where he teaches nonfiction writing. He lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters.