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All avid readers have their own favorite writers. Yours may be Daniel Defoe or Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov or Ogden Nash, Agatha Christie or Anton Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway, P. G. Wodehouse or A. A. Milne, Philip Roth or Stephen King; whom you love matters little. What does matter is that something in the style, the subject, or the subtleties of one or another writer so matches your own passions and quirks that you fall in love with that writer, and year after year you keep returning to enjoy his or her cordial company.  Continue reading...
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A couple of years ago I wrote a Visual Thesaurus column about writing song lyrics, focusing on basics: finding a storyline and a mood that many people can relate to, telling the story with simple words and painting the mood with vivid images, plus, without being vague, leaving plenty of room for romantic mystery.  Continue reading...
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All fiction rests on a foundation of fact. Even if an author describes five-headed creatures who live on Planet Zobar and drink purple water, he or she must give readers enough feeling of life for us to imagine the world the words create.  Continue reading...
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Here's a perennially useful guide for choosing what book to read next: think of a title you've long known by name but never read, go straight to a library or bookstore, get it, and read it. Through decades that guide has steered me to Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Hugo's Les Miserables, all of Austen, Dickens, and Twain, and many, many more.

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A few months ago my wife and I visited New York's Whitney Museum and I wrote a column inspired by the art there that broke all the rules of realism. This month we toured a Museum of Modern Art exhibit of sculptures that Pablo Picasso created over six decades and felt a similar inspiration. "Fecund, fecund"—that's the word that kept going through my mind.  Continue reading...
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As a general rule, we think of writing as being built from words and words being built from letters. True enough: words and letters are writing's basic building blocks. Yet the more I read and write, the more I sense the power of expressions.  Continue reading...
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Recently I spent an afternoon with friends wandering through Manhattan's Whitney Museum, gazing at a wide variety of canvases by Frank Stella, Jackson Pollack, Joseph Albers, Mark Rothko, and many more. As we wandered, my skepticism (you call this art?) gave way to admiration (wow, abandoning pictures could be fun!), and to thinking: hey, we writers could do the same thing with words, not using them to paint pictures but scattering them willy-nilly like Jackson Pollack's dribbles.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 79 Articles