A thought-provoking journey inside the minds of the world’s most accomplished storytellers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE SPECTATOR “Richard Cohen’s book acted as a tonic to me. It didn’t make me more Russian, but it fired up my imagination. I have never annotated a book so fiercely.”—Hilary Mantel
“There are three rules for writing a novel,” Somerset Maugham is said to have said. “Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” How then to bring characters to life, find a voice, kill your darlings, or run that most challenging of literary gauntlets, writing a sex scene? What made Nabokov choose the name Lolita? Why did Fitzgerald use firstperson narration in The Great Gatsby ? How did Kerouac, who raged against revision, finally come to revise On the Road ?
Veteran editor and author Richard Cohen takes us on an engrossing journey into the lives and minds of the world’s greatest writers, from Honoré de Balzac and George Eliot to Virginia Woolf and Zadie Smith—with a few mischievous detours to visit Tolstoy along the way. In a scintillating tour d’horizon, Cohen lays bare the tricks, motivations, and techniques of the literary greats, revealing their obsessions and flaws and how we can learn from them along the way.