Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

The Other Wes Moore

April 18th, 2011    Posted in Kim, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized
 

I’ve been reading this book for a while, as it was a friend’s book club choice. It follows two boys, both named Wes Moore, as they battle humble beginnings and eventually follows them into adulthood. One of the Wes Moores becomes a Rhodes Scholar, the other goes to prison for murder.

The premise is undeniably interesting and is told from the voice of the Rhodes Scholar, Wes Moore. As the cover states, the book is tragic in that one of the boys could have just as easily been the other. However, this becomes largely debatable in the fact that their stories aren’t all that similar. The biggest difference being  that one family sends their son away to military school, while the other, in spite of good intentions, loses theirs to a crumbling environment of drugs and a lack of education.

I recently saw the documentary Waiting For Superman, which tackles many of the same issues. The primary question being, “How well can a child succeed without education? Especially if that child lives in poverty or around crime.” I couldn’t help but feel that if I were taking a sociology class in college, both the film and the book would be on the syllabus. They both provide a well-rounded look at the problems in our school’s education systems in addition to just how much your immediate environment affects you. If you’re interested in the issue, I would recommend both.

I thought this post would compliment Kelly’s review of the Accidental Billionaires, primarily because of the narrative non-fiction voice which Wes Moore adopts throughout. I have some of the same issues as Kelly does in reading narrative non-fiction and though Wes Moore’s expository writing and research was excellent, the writing did fall short when it came to dialogue and pushing the narrative into scene. All in all, if you’re an avid non-fiction reader, you’ll find this enjoyable.

Author: Wes Moore
Date Read: April 2011
Source: Powell’s Books

 

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Dual Review: Stephen King’s On Writing

January 25th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Dual Reviews, Kelly, Kim, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing
 

Kim: The first thing I noticed in reading Stephen King’s On Writing is the underlying and impenetrable truth behind every word in the book: a good writer can make anything fun to read and Stephen King proves exactly that. To put it simply, anyone—whether they’re a teacher, engineer, artist, or simply just a Stephen King fan—will enjoy this book. If you’re a writer, you’ll love it.

The book is separated into several parts, the first a resume of sorts, tracing moments in King’s life from childhood to best-selling author. From the get go you’re eager to seek out clues, perhaps a life changing event hidden within an anectdote that turned Stephen King into the writer he is today. You’ll find none, with the exception of his marriage, which King credits again and again as the foundation of  his personal and professional success. You quickly learn, and King continues this sentiment throughout, that there is no special formula for success, but that it simply takes all the practice in the world.  What you do learn about writing specifically in this first part,  is that practice is paramount and no amount of thinking about writing, or wondering about writing will make you a good writer. You simply need to be writing.

Next we get down to the nuts and bolts; what it takes to be a good writer (good grammar, strong narratives, characters with depth) as well as some interesting ideas about language and how stories are put together. As a writer, it’s great to peek into the world as Stephen King sees it, but at some point you come away with another complete and impenetrable truth about the book: writing is unique for each of us, there is no secret to making yours successful (other than practice and as King puts it, a little God-given talent), and that you need to carve out your own experience with the craft. A lot of what you read in the book (omit needless words, avoid adverbs, cut your first draft down by 10%) all serves as valuable advice, but the greatest advice of all is in the example of Stephen King himself. That life can be a bitch, and if you love to write, well, keep on writing.

This book resonated with me a great deal and part of the fun is in watching King put it all together. The most unnerving part of the book is his staunch belief that you can either write or you can’t. At some point in the book you’re either shying away from the pages wondering if you can or can’t be a writer, or, you’re stepping up the challenge to prove that you can. I can’t help but feel that Stephen King would support the latter and ultimately, this is what I loved most about the book.

Kelly: Like Kim, I thoroughly enjoyed On Writing. One of the first things I appreciated about the book was the cover. I have the tenth anniversary edition, and it shows Stephen King sitting at his desk with his feet up. A dog–maybe a corgi–stands beneath him looking towards the camera. The photo humanizes King, and makes him seem accessible. The content of his book does the same thing. King’s personal journey is interesting, and I appreciated that he wrote it in a series of small stories instead of writing a grandiose, sweeping, “this was my childhood and it made me what I am today,” flowery section. Instead it was funny and effective. He clearly knew he wanted to a writer from an early age, and he tackled the world of submissions bravely.

Kim did a great job summing up King’s take on writing, and so I’ll just add this. King wrote part of On Writing while recovering from being hit by a van. Nearly dying didn’t stop him from writing, and in fact seemed to be a major component in his recovery (not to downplay the help of his clearly devoted wife). I’ve heard many people say “oh, if I only had time to write.” If someone who can only write for an hour due to pain can carve out time, anyone who truly wants to can.

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