Because You Have To by Joan Frank
Author: Joan Frank
Genre: Non-Fiction (On Writing / Literary Criticism / Memoir / Essays / 20th Century Literature / American Writing)
Publisher/Publication Date: University of Notre Dame Press (9/15/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: I did, although I lingered!
One-sentence summary: Twenty-three essays on writing and reading by a passionate, sharp, reader and author.
Reading Challenges: Dewey Decimal
Do I like the cover?: I really do -- the soft colors and the spare layout really appeal to me, and, lame as it may be, I want that desk and chair and typewriter to be my writer-ly writing room.
I'm reminded of...: Anne Lamott
First line: We live in a fast-forward world.
Did... I squee a little seeing Thaisa Frank quoted in this volume?: YES. I've really enjoyed Thaisa Frank's writing, and love seeing people I love getting love, and discovered she's not related to this author (as Joan Frank explains in her Acknowledgements.)
Do... I love that she offers editing and teaching?: YES. Super cool, if you're brave enough to share!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like writing guides, authors on writing, or memoirs about creative endeavors.
Why did I get this book?: I collecting writing guides like...collectable things.
Review: I always love writers writing about writing, but this book was particularly well-timed for me as I'm trying, once again to write a NaNoWriMo novel.
I'm always curious about the decision to write a book on writing (especially, and this is bitchy to admit, but what can I say, I'm sometimes a mean girl, if I've never heard of the writer, who are they to tell me about writing?!) but I can't ever say 'no', and in this case, I'm very glad I said 'yes'.
In her preface, Frank says straight out what her book is, acknowledging the plethora of books on this subject as well as software and websites devoted to the hobby/job/make-it-rich technique of writing. Her book came out of her interest in "the emotional and physical and dream-life of writing (and reading) as an inescapable calling, and in ways of inhabiting that life."
This book is actually a collection of essays, written at various times in Frank's life, all relating to writing and reading, so it really is less a how-to guide and more a meditation and reflection on the power, pain, and privilege of writing. The style and mood of the essays vary but the feel of the book is cohesive; I had a sense of who Frank might be, the kind of woman and writer she is, and why she takes such joy in writing and reading. Most importantly, every essay is readable, friendly, accessible -- I didn't feel like an unknowing outsider.
The earliest essay is from 1997; the most recent from last year. The essay from '97, a defense of the memoir, made me laugh as the provocation for it -- critics complaining about the swell of memoirs like Angela's Ashes and The Kiss -- reminded me of last year's rant about grief lit. Everything new is old, blah blah.
From the act of creation to the 'business' of writing, Frank shares her reflections, experiences, and complaints. Her essay, 'Be Careful Whom You Tell', was both hilarious and sad,and just when I was about to sigh and roll my eyes at her 'woe is me' tale, she finally shared just whom you should tell, and it was Mary Oliver-esque lovely. The following essay, 'Never Enough', had a lyrical quality, the numbered list poetical and pragmatic.
If you, like me, enjoy writers on writing, get this volume even if you're unfamiliar with Frank -- she's an interesting, warm writer to get to know, and I found her thoughts inspiring -- I wanted to read more and write more, and I love it when someone makes me feel that way.
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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Because You Have To to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 11/23.