What About the Baby? Some Thoughts on the Art of Fiction

Alice McDermott
Published in 2021
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The author of eight novels, three of which were named Pulitzer Prize finalists, including Charming Billy, which won the 1988 National Book Award, McDermott turns for the first time to nonfiction in this collection of essays, lectures, and observations on the art of writing fiction. “I expect fiction to be about the pain and sweetness of life,” she writes in a chapter titled “What I Expect,” in which she shares passages by Mark Helprin, Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Eudora Welty, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, and others to illustrate the reasons we turn to fiction to learn life’s lessons. “I expect fictional narrators to stand naked, talking into the dark, so that the words they choose are neither self-conscious or self-serving nor—worse yet—author-conscious or author-serving but direct and honest and as true as they can make them.” A book as meaningful for readers of fiction as it is for writers, What About the Baby? is filled with wisdom acquired over decades of writing and teaching. 


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