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READ: Review, Unless It Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt

I have a secret crush. Well, maybe not-so-secret: I love books about writing. The top shelf of my office bookshelf overflows with all sorts of these volumes—from Strunk & White’s classic The Elements of Style to Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  For years, this collection remained static. Only in the last few—since I began to write and edit fulltime—has it grown in depth and wonder. My crush meant I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to receive an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of Roger Rosenblatt’s new release Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing (Ecco Books, 2011). I’ve long admired Rosenblatt’s work. I loved the title; I needed the book. Here’s my review:  I’ve reached the point in my writing career where I sometimes have the opportunity to mentor newer writers. I don’t teach in a university or any formal setting beyond writers’ conferences. Still, I write, and I teach about it. Those factors combined with my admiration for Rosenblatt’s work made me want to read this book. Award- winning essayist, novelist, and playwright Rosenblatt has effectively lived the antithesis to an old saying. In his case, Those who can, teach. He writes, and writes well. And he also teaches writing —as he has for more than forty years. In Unless It Moves, Rosenblatt takes a fresh approach to writing about writing: He presents his advice in story form. He tells the story of an imaginary (or, more accurately, composite) university writing class and allows readers to experience his students’ interaction with their professor and his material.  This presentation adds layers of meaning and allows the author to present both good and bad examples without hitting readers over the head. The misunderstandings, trials, and triumphs that class members endure will most likely happen to readers who write. And the character flaws that mark and measure their writing will—at least by the end of the book—seem more familiar than otherwise.  Trite device? Thinly veiled vehicle for the communication of truth? Perhaps. But I found myself turning the pages in search of both students’ questions and professor’s wisdom. I read. I learned. And lines like “There’s no purpose to writing unless you believe in significant things—right over wrong, good over evil” and “Voice is the knowledge of what you want to say” made me think—and moved me to improve my craft. Read the book and inhale the sweet fragrance of story. Reread as you savor each morsel of truth. What’s your favorite book about writing? Share its title and why you enjoy it. You may be a part of helping someone else who loves to...

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