Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction | Tags: anne lamott, bird by bird, style guides, writing manuals
After finishing June Casagrande’s Mortal Syntax I was enticed by the lure of other writing manuals and style guides. One of the books I picked up was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which has been a national best seller and a perennial favorite for graduate gifts.
Bird by Bird gives sound and solid advice for the aspiring creative writer. Lamott provides the reader with the hardy basics of writing — think of a thick stew with a chunk of bread; the book focuses less on the particulars and extras but does hone in on the building blocks. The downside: I found the book frightfully boring (I couldn’t resist scanning) and basic. I have never read any of Lamott’s other books but I hope that she breaks a good deal of her own suggestions.
I found a lot of her more technical development advice to be restraining and I couldn’t help but think how many “great” authors did the complete opposite. In addition, the “life” part of Bird by Bird became monotonous and lingered too much in “how sad I am.” (Granted, the opening chapter reflecting on her childhood is superb.) Likewise, there was monotonous repetition referencing to her writer/author friends and I kept wishing she would just go ahead and name these friends.
Bird by Bird is a nice beginner’s handbook for writing and throughout the text suggestions are sprinkled that are worthy of taking note. For example, Lamott’s suggestion to carry notecards around to jot down ideas as they come to you. Overall, I found the book rather dry and have my fingers crossed that something more exciting and inciteful is available to the beginner writer.
Other opinions: books i done read.