Synopses & Reviews
Editor J. C. Hallman has pored through countless collected essays of notable authors, searching for pieces in which the author approaches literature from a personal angle. The results are a fantastic, provocative, intelligent, and, at times, hilarious discussion of literature and life. Never before collected in a single volume, the essays in The Story About the Story feature lively discussions of great literature by some of the most prominent authors of all time. With over thirty essays written by authors as diverse as Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf to Cynthia Ozick and Salman Rushdie, this collection offers an invaluable course on literature as well as a look into "Creative Criticism," a form of critical essay that involves a personal perspective. Writers such as William Gass, Wallace Stegner, Albert Camus, Milan Kundera, Susan Sontag, James Wood, E. B. White, Herman Hesse, Cynthia Ozick, Walter Kirn, and Michael Chabon discuss the work of such luminaries as Marcel Proust, J. D. Salinger, Franz Kafka, John Keats, Malcolm Lowry, T. S. Eliot, Anton Chekhov, Robert Lowell, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Cormac McCarthy, Truman Capote, and John Steinbeck.
"Gathering 31 essays, this book offers nothing less than a crash course in literature, as taught by some serious talent." The Los Angeles Times
"Hallman's collection of reader-focused criticism focuses on the spirited, positive defense (or outright celebration) of authors and works; broad in scope and full of personal, passionate writing, this volume makes a fine reader for contemporary critics and other literati."Publishers Weekly
Czeslaw Milosz cooly dismisses Robert Frost, and Cynthia Ozick crushes Truman Capote, but mainly there is the deep appreciation of one writer for another, often an equal, sometimes thrilling in perception and prose. Poets on other poets they admire, D. H. Lawrence describing that singular masterpiece
Moby Dick. You may never have heard, even remotely, of an effete English writer named Ronald Firbank, but when you read about Evelyn Waughs brief 1929 essay on him, youll wantcurious about his influenceto immediately pick up Waughs Vile Bodies, not when it arrives in a few days from Amazon or when you can get to the library, but this minute, now!
Thats the problem with this book: too many irresistible things.”
James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime
"An invaluable guide for any reader of literature, as well as for the practitioners themselves. Reading Lawrence on Melville, Heaney on Eliot, Milosz on Frost, and Camus on Melville will reveal the nut of the art."Daniel Halpern; editor of The Art of the Story
"All great criticism begins with love. After all, we read books not from obligation but for pleasure, for mental excitement, for what A.E. Housman called the tingle at the back of the neck. In The Story About the Story there are no merely literary essays: Instead J.C. Hallman has gathered love letters, exuberant appreciations, confessions of envy and admiration. In these pages some of our finest writers stand up and testify to the power of literature to shake and shape our very souls."Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Bound to Please
A novel, yes. A film, yes. But when have you ever been sorry for a book of essays to end? I was with this book. Each of these essays investigates good writing by writing well about it. They are all formally elegant and smart, smart, smart. And a delight to read.”Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy
"Quite plainly, we were taken aback by how precisely the author had laid out our own aspirations for criticism in this magazine. The piece, in our humble opinion, points toward an educated, unpretentious form of literary critique that serves both literature and the everyday reader. When people want to know what were looking for in this magazine, well point them to Hallmans essay and those he has collected in the book it prefaces."
The Editors of The Quarterly Conversation
"Hallman has given the literary world an insightful book about the concept of 'creative criticism' penned in clever and often humorous prose by a variety of talented authors...The essays are truly a joy to read..." Meredith Greene, San Francisco Book Review
"Instead, Hallman has compiled pieces that leap with scintillating vigor and occasionally astringent force from the page...The reader is a fly on the wall, inhaling the coffee and cigarette fumes as literatures greatest writers gossip about their peers and predecessors, and dissect the work of writing and of reading. Ultimately, The Story About the Story is writing for writers, for those who write or for those who dream." Christy Corp-Minamiji, BlogCritics
"That such an array even exists is cause for much celebrations. . . if you care a wit about reading and writing, this book will be a blessed addition to your library."The Miami SunPost
"The Story about the Story is a intelligent celebration of the nexus where good fiction and nonfiction meet."Popmatters.com
"If you love literature, don' borrow the Story About the Story, because you'll never give it back. Buy it." Helen Gallagher, Salon.com
"...this kind of writing about writing has actually always been around, you just had to know where to look for it. For anyone looking today, it seems silly to do anything other than start here." Justin Taylor, The Faster Times
"The Story About the Story is a stealth campaign for criticismfor readings re-created on the pageas an art form. What is consistent across every piece in the anthology is a dogged respect for language and prose that gestures toward the sublime...it reclaims the intellectual realm for writers of fiction, poetry, and essay."Fourth Genre
Writers and critics have always approached writing about reading differently. Most people are familiar with the latter group, which churns out stifling essays telling readers what to think, but rarely why. Editor J.C. Hallman suggests an alternative: the writers methodology. Writers come at the subject from an intensely personal perspective, incorporating their pasts and passions into the process of interpretation. In the pieces Hallman compiles here, some of the most important writers ever to live ponder some of the greatest books ever written. The essays are by turns funny, smart, suggestive, scathing, laudatory, poignant, and hopeful, and above all, deeply engaged in a process of careful reading. Together, they chart a trajectory that digs deep into the past and aims toward a future in which literature can play a new and more profound role in how we think, read, live, and write.
With essays that are poignant, smart, suggestive, intellectual, funny, sassy, scathing, laudatory, wistful, and hopeful, THE STORY ABOUT THE STORY offers lessons from a remarkable range of celebrated authors that amount to an invaluable course on both how to write and read well.
About the Author
J. C. Hallman is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to editing The Story About the Story, he is also the author of several books, including The Chess Artist, In Utopia, Wm & H'ry, and B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal.
Read an exclusive essay by J. C. Hallman