The Sunday supplement: #53
The how-to writing book I'm using lately, a favorite piece of travel gear, some new jazz, including albums for people who don’t like jazz
Before we get into it, I want to thank two readers who pointed out last week that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place in South Dakota, not Montana. My mistake! Also, I’ve never been to South Dakota, I need to go.
So, there are lots of good books about writing, and there are lots of bad books about how to write. The one that’s worked for me, that I return to, is Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction.
Highsmith is the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and many other greats. In her personal life, not so great? There’s a Terry Castle review of the latest biography that explains.
But as an analyst and explainer of how suspense fiction works—i.e., all fiction—Highsmith is smart, cold-eyed, and sympathetic. And not just on technique but stuff like endurance.
It is then good to remember that artists have existed and persisted, like the snail and coelacanth and other changing forms of organic life since long before governments were dreamed of.
It’s a good, fast book.
Btw, unrelated, but does anyone know of the book that Graham Greene and his brother once put together on how to assassinate people? Where most entries were fiction, but some were real advice from anonymous contributors who, I believe, had actually killed? I used to have a copy but can’t find it—email me if so!
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