On Writers and Writing

ISBN: 0201483386
ISBN 13: 9780201483383
By: John Gardner Stewart O'Nan

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Books Every Writer Should Read Books On Writing Counterpoint Currently Reading Essays Literary Criticism Non Fiction On Writing To Read Writing

About this book

"All my life, " John Gardner wrote, weeks before his death in a motorcycle accident, "I've lived flat-out. As a motorcycle racer, chemist, writer...I was never cautious." This goes for John Gardner the critic as well, and that is nowhere more evident than in the pieces collected in this book. On Writers and Writing brings together, for the first time, John Gardner's essays and reviews on his fellow writers and reaffirms his status as one of the most intelligent, generous, and insightful critics of his generation. In piece after piece we see Gardner, the consummate teacher and critic, separating novelistic wheat from chaff, genuine fiction from fakery, examining the work of writers he admires - Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Larry Woiwode, and Joyce Carol Oates - as he would an assignment by one of his students. "Often, " Charles Johnson says in his introduction, "the effect is shocking - he said that about John Updike? - but it is a testament to Gardner's professionalism that publicity and public acclaim never blinded him to the basic question every reviewer and critic must ask: What exactly do we have here?" That deceptively simple question is asked insistently throughout many of the pieces collected here, so that the reader too sees the craft and skill of some of America's greatest writers at work. In other essays, Gardner turns his extraordinary intelligence to subjects ranging from fairy tales and religion to King Arthur and Walt Disney. Chock full of insights and opinions, making it essential reading for anyone interested in American literature, On Writers and Writing is also an invaluable contribution to our understanding of John Gardner.

Reader's Thoughts

C.G. Fewston

Great essays on the craft of writing. Must read for any writer.

Merce Cardus

John Gardner, an author and a creative writing teacher and also a professor of medieval literature, shows in On Writers and Writing his facet as an advocate for higher artistic and moral standards in fiction. http://bit.ly/XBzrmM


Worth it just for the essay on Bartelby the Scrivener alone. A little dated in that he reviews the contemporary fiction of his time, most of which is more or less relevant today, which, unfortunately, can also be said of John Gardner's own serious fiction. Recommended for those who practice the craft of writing or those readers, like myself, who crave more tools to dig deeper into serious fiction.


Novelist John Gardner celebrates the life-affirming nature of great fiction as he reviews the works of Herman Melville, Philip Roth, and Lewis Carroll, among others. This provocative writing cuts to the heart of his subjects and reveals the real essence of the work.

Scott Lee

Made me feel bad about myself, and my writerly aspirations. Taught me a great lesson about not paying attention to anything that poisons your creativity.

Viking Paul

I enjoy both John Gardner's fiction and also his instructional manuals. This posthumous collection of essays can only be of interest to someone who is a) an avid collector and reader of the entire Gardner canon and b) someone fully aware of the literature he reviews and usually attacks. Bold and controversial, it is still a lesser work of a great scholar.

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