In New York in the late 1920’s, Maxwell Perkins is a book editor who discovered both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. His newest writer is Thomas Wolfe. Wolfe is a promising writer, but his writing is in desperate need of pairing down. Their friendship develops as Wolfe’s work is published and he becomes a successful writer.
Then the problems begin. Both Perkins and Wolfe begin to spend more time with each other than their respective spouses, Louise Perkins (Laura Linney) and Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman). As great a writer as Wolfe is, his explosive energy begins to overwhelm and erode his personal and professional relationship with Maxwell.
As a writer, I very much appreciate this movie. Killing your darlings (i.e. editing) is often a painful, but necessary part of the writing process. But in the end, if the writer is lucky enough to be successful, the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to write a novel is worth it.
We all need heroes in our lives. They are the ones that we admire. We aspire to follow in their footsteps.
Kate Zambreno’s 2012 book, Heroines, is about the female authors who overcame the title of “female author”, to become successful in their own right.
The origins of the book come from the author’s blog, started on December 31st, 2009. Entitled Frances Farmer Is My Sister, Ms. Zambreno wrote about authors such as Jean Rhys and Zelda Fitzgerald. These women, whose abilities as writers equaled the male writers around them, were only thought to be muses. Because they were women, no one believed that they could write as well as a man. They were silenced, institutionalized and erased (thankfully for us, only temporarily) from literary history.
The format of this book is not written in the traditional format. Retaining the blog style of writing, the author lays out the difficulties that previous generations of female writers had to overcome. One of the qualities of the book that caught me off guard was how angry I got. Zelda Fitzgerald is not just the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was a brilliant writer in her own right. Jean Rhy’s novel, Wide Sargasso Sea is the highly acclaimed and respected prequel to Jane Eyre. She dared to flesh out the character of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s first wife. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester is a one dimensional madwoman who nearly kills her husband and burns Thornfield to the ground. Jean Rhys made Bertha an empathetic character whom the reader feels for because of the circumstances forced upon her.
Gloria Steinem once said the following:
The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.
This book pissed me off. But it also set me free. This is one of best feminist non-fiction books that I have ever read and I highly recommend it.
Writing the great American novel is the dream of many writers. There are many writers (myself included) who would give their right arm to become the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip Roth or Sylvia Plath.
Writing is more than sitting in front of a computer with a blank word document open or having a pad and pen in hand. Good writing, especially the kind the keeps readers coming back again and again is a mix of talent, skill and sheer hard work.
Donald Maass’s 2002 book, “Writing The Breakout Novel” breaks down the writing process in a practical, easy to read format. Having published books and worked on other side of the desk as a literary agent, Mr. Maass understands the writing process and the qualities that make a book stand out among the untold number of competitors that are published yearly.
What I like about this book is that the information he provided was just not for new writers. The advice can also be applied to veteran writers who even though they have a few published novels under their belt, could use a little help for their next novel.