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Kyle Minor Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 7.03.14

"Before Knockemstiff made him famous, my friend Donald Ray Pollock came home from work at the paper mill, rolled a page into his typewriter, and began to copy, word by word, passages by writers he admired. One day Raymond Carver, the next day Cormac McCarthy, the next day Dawn Powell, the next day Larry Brown. This, he told me, was the bulk of his writerly education. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, painstakingly slow, a process not dissimilar to what literary translators do when they bring a work from Japanese into English. I thought I’d give it a try, and almost every week of my life since, I’ve done it a little or more than a little. If I’m reading something and it makes me feel something, I want to know why, so I slow down, and I copy it out, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, savoring the pleasures, and doing my damnedest to uncover the secrets. This evening, I’m at a stopping point in the novel I’m writing, and I have a beautiful book on my tabletop. The Virgins, by Pamela Erens. It does a thing with first person I’m dying to try—a thing Philip Roth and Alice Munro have done, too—and The Virgins is waiting there, ready to teach me how."
—Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk (Sarabande Books, 2014)

Reader Comments

  • kukicarino says...

    Kyle Minor,  I was drawn to your post because my writing instructor just gave me your book Praying Drunk, with the recommendation to read "Glossolalia."  Thank you for your encouragement to copy special phrases, sentences and paragraphs.  I fell into that habit a while ago.  Who can resist the possibility of feeling (just a bit) what it is like to create the magic of Alice Munro or Lydia Davis?  I am sure that your work will entice me as well...

     -  Kuki Carino

  • dekesolomon says...

    So what does Pamela Erens do with first-person narration that gives you the hots?

    Tell me please. I'm all in a tizzy waiting to find out. 8-)

    Yer frend, Deke.

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