Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat!

Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2005.

The late Blake Snyder was one of the most successful screenwriters of the past few decades, at least in terms of sales of scripts for “genre” films. The subtitle is “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need,” and it’s hardly that, but it’s definitely worth reading. (Syd Field’s books come much closer to that description, and Snyder recommends them, too.)


Published in: on 2 May 2018 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bagieu, Penelope. Exquisite Corpse.

NY: First Second, 2015.

Bagieu is a relatively new French graphic novelist with a not-huge output, but she has already made her mark among both readers and critics. Zoe is a Parisian in her early 20s, working as a spokesmodel at auto shows, and introducing new brands of cheese, and whatever else turns up. Not much of a job but it’s a living. Except then she has to go home to her slobbish skinhead boyfriend, who always leaves his socks on when they have sex.


Published in: on 30 January 2018 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

Rowell gets strong reviews for her YA novels, especially this one, so I thought I should take a look. Here we meet Cath from Omaha, a new freshman at the University of Nebraska, who is not at all sure she’ll be able to adapt to it. She doesn’t do well at all with new places, new people, or new experiences. She isn’t all that crazy about the Real World, for that matter.


Hill, Reginald. Arms and the Women.

NY: Delacorte, 1999.

Detective Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel, head of Mid-Yorkshire CID, and his able right hand, the more intellectual (and liberal) DCI Peter Pascoe, have been at their jobs a long time. Together with the notably ugly (and gay) Sergeant Wield, they constitute a well-oiled machine when it comes to solving crimes. But this time, the guys are sidelined somewhat by the ladies.


Atwood, Margaret. The Stone Mattress.

NY: Random House, 2014.

To my mind, Atwood is one of the two or three greatest living writers in English. In each of her novels and short stories, what she has to say is always worth hearing. And the way in which she says it will hold your attention, make you think, and make you laugh. She’s completely accessible, too, not abstract and Joycean. And this doesn’t happen by accident, as her expert critical essays make clear. I always pick up Atwood’s latest book with pleasurable anticipation, and I’ve never been disappointed.


Lovett, Charlie. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen.

NY: Penguin, 2014.

Awhile back, I read Lovett’s first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, which also has a bibliographical theme (a lost Shakespeare primary source that time) and quite enjoyed it. This one is even better. The author has been an antiquarian bookseller and he brings that whole slightly strange world very much to life. At the same time, he successfully combines an exciting mystery and detective plot with a believable and non-sappy love story, which isn’t easy.


Lovesey, Peter. The Circle.

NY: Soho Press, 2005.

Lovesey is probably best known for his mystery series featuring Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, and Diamond gets a one-page walk-on here, but the main cop is DCI Henrietta Mallin from Bognor — but even she’s not the main character and she doesn’t even show up till you’re nearly halfway through the story.


Pinker, Steven. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

NY: Viking, 2014.

Pinker is one of those “public intellectuals” whose work is thoughtful and always worth paying attention to, but who would probably publish in obscurity if his own style wasn’t so appealing and lively. He’s both a cognitive scientist and a linguist with a string of awards, and he has the knack of explaining complex ideas in a way that the non-specialist can grasp.


Published in: on 20 March 2015 at 5:33 am  Comments (1)  
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Katzev, Richard. A Commonplace Book Primer.

Portland, OR: The Author, 2011.

When I was a developing book-nerd in high school more than fifty years ago, I rather self-consciously began writing down brief extracts from the books I read, the thoughts or observations that really got to me. I eventually got too busy with Real Life to keep it up, but when I came into possession of my own computer c.1980, I started keeping notes again.


Published in: on 5 January 2015 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Bell, James Scott. Plot & Structure.

Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2004.

I’ve been writing fiction, mostly bad, since elementary school, which was nearly sixty years ago. I decided in college that while I knew I had some innate talent, it wasn’t sufficient that I could support myself by writing. That may have been a lost opportunity or it may have been recognition of reality, but while I have, in fact, sold a couple of things over the years, and while I’ve done a considerable amount of academic and career-related writing, when it comes to fiction I’m mostly a hobbyist.


Published in: on 24 May 2014 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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