Alan Gelb, author of “Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Short Story” will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison this Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; reservations can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews three recent non-fiction titles on the subjects of reading, writing, and the in-between.
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda’s “Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books” (Pegasus Books) was published in August and collects fifty essays originally written for The Home Scholar between February 2012 and February 2013. Ranging in tone from intellectual to sentimental and amusing to poignant, his vignettes celebrate bibliophilia in all its glory.
Dirda—known for his impressive reading prowess and keen literary criticism—offers recollections that will be of interest to any booklover, regardless of pedigree. From quiet nights spent in the company of a solitary book to euphoric dalliances throughout the country in pursuit of rare tomes (and the people who wrote them), and everything in between, “Browsings” is a literary smorgasbord that lives of to the author’s introductory caution: “don’t read more than two or three pieces at one sitting. Space them out.” Indeed, there is much to savor between these pages.
Out in July, “On Writing” (Ecco)—edited by scholar Abel Debritto—collects the letter of novelist, poet, and short story scribe Charles Bukowski. Dating from the mid-1940s through the early 1990s, these missives were directed to publishers, editors, friends, and contemporaries, and touch upon matters of personal and professional interest. (An added bonus: the author’s illustrations are scattered throughout.)
Though Bukowski’s reflections are always entertaining and often exhilarating, they can also be a bit exhaustive and repetitive (thereby serving as a reminder that these musings weren’t written with the intent of being read straight through by a third party). Perhaps the true accomplishment of this project, then, is that its intimate depiction of one writer’s struggles—with artistic integrity, drink, money, and women, among other things—allows the reader to empathize with the communal plight of the tortured artist. Of course, studying Bukowski’s voice, which changes depending on his audience, is alone worthy of the price.
Also available is Alan Gelb’s “Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Short Story” (Tarcher). Gelb, a renowned writing coach who authored the popular “Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps,” targets a different generation here: the baby-boomers. In contemplating his own mortality, he became fixated on the notion of writing a personal “legacy”—and the resulting book offers readers a step-by-step guide to composing their own short narratives that can serve as a “last say.”
By targeting a length that is manageable for both seasoned and novice writers (500-1000 words, typically), Gelb instills confidence that the task can be done before teaching readers how to do it. His instructions on self-reflection and craft are enhanced by personal commentary and examples of legacies written by himself and others, thereby illustrating both the process and the result. “Having the Last Say” is an invaluable resource for those looking to achieve some semblance of immortality by virtue of the written word.