Thursday, April 07, 2011

Forest for the Trees

Lately I've been reading the new edition of The Forest for the Trees: an editor's advice to writers by Betsy Lerner.  It's not a "how to write" book, but a collection of insightful, well written essays about all that Lerner has seen during her years in the creative business.  She writes with perspective on her experiences and a keen sense of perception that cuts through the bullshit and the fantasy of what it is to be a "writer."

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor's Advice to WritersThis book should be required reading for everyone who finishes an MFA.  Like a detox kit they hand you as you walk out the door.

Lerner writes:
To say that attending graduate school is the end of innocence is not an exaggeration.
Lerner's experience in an MFA program is definitely of a different era, but she doesn't dwell on the superficial differences, instead her focus has found such truth that bit still applies to today's MFA programs.  And she does this without being disparaging or whipping out some chicken soup for the soul.

She doesn't focus on writing programs, but they feature in the occasional essay because they were part of her experience.  Nor does she focus only on the "literary" writers.  In fact, she pokes a bit of fun at those who think they're "literary" and discuss writing a "commercial" novel to make a bit of cash, like it's that simple.  She also pokes at notions of selling your first story to The New Yorker and those groups and mythos that perpetuate such notions.

I'm only 80 pages into The Forest for the Trees and I'm already prepared to recommend it to everyone.  Not only are the insights in-the-know yet down to earth, the prose itself is a joy to read. And there's a sly sense of humor which appeals to me.

Highly Recommended