The Way of the Writer, Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling is filled with the accomplishments of Charles Johnson, his philosophy in regards to writing and the benefits of academia. Somewhere among this rather high-minded autobiography (because that's basically what it is) are some insights about actual writing (that would be literary fiction with a capital L since Johnson considers anything else "pork" or industrial writing and not worth the effort).
Much of his philosophy is similar to John Gardner's who was his teacher and mentor. Indeed, one might be better off reading Gardner's On Moral Fiction as well as The Art of Fiction for more specifics on these two areas unless you're want to know more about Johnson's career highlights beginning in grade school.
I did find it interesting that he places more emphasis on plot than character development which could be considered a contradiction since one definition of literary fiction is that it's character driven. That's it you ask? Perhaps it's his lifetime as an academic, with thirty of those years as a teacher, that gives him, in my opinion, a rather limited point of view.
Though I'm now inclined to read at least one of his novels - to see if it is actually as good as he thinks it is.
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
3.5/4 stars; I liked quite a few of these short stories, none of them made me roll my eyes, and to be fair, the essays at the end of the book were also quite interesting.
* “Single, Singularity”: While it doesn’t really invert the trope it’s based on, I’m a sucker for AI stories, and this one was both thrilling, and chilling in its ending.
* “Seeking Truth”: The ‘blind psychic’ trope, subverted in that here, the blind person is extremely skilled at reading other people, no need for special powers for that.
* “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place?”: A mix of Sesame Stree-like TV shows and jaded ex-super soldiers trying to go home. Very nostalgic, perhaps a wee bit long, but a good read nonetheless.
* “Chosen”: A comic twist on ‘the Chosen’, with jabs at tropes like the gun-toting weapons maniac, the Buffy-like teenager fighting demons, and pedantic occultist scholar. This one was really fun.
* “The White Dragon”: A different take on the ‘yellow peril’, in a 1920s San Francisco (also, I liked revisiting that city in such a light, now that I’ve finally been able to actually travel there).
* “Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone”: The Witch and the Damsel In Distress, poised against each other, each with their wiles and strengths, and with the story playing on the trope of men rescuing the Damsel... only they’re not the right people to do the job.
* “Burning Bright”: I really liked the main character here, just the right mix of slightly hinged and yet fairly grounded at the same time.
* “Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint)”: This story plays well on both the Santa Claus/Christmas and ‘old soldier goes back to war’ tropes.
* “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree”: At first I thought this would be about werewolves, and it turned out it was something else, which I liked.
* “Until There is Only Hunger”: A strong story, with a definite end-of-the-world feeling, dwindling hope mixed with growing despair, and characters trying to find whatever comfort they can, although this rings more and more hollow. Bonus point for characters not being typical cis/hetero/white.
* “Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini”: I suspected where this one was going, but I liked it, and it made me laugh.
* “The Tangled Web”: Love at first sight and romance woes... but not among humans, which lent a different dimension to this story.
The essays: definitely read those. They deal with the Hero’s Journey, its limitations, the Heroine’s Journey, its limitations as well, and push further, when it comes to trans and gay/lesbian heroes, which is really needed. Because let’s be honest: it’s already difficult to find a good story where a woman is not reduced to accomplishment = family/motherhood/taking care of others, but it’s even worse when you’re non-binary.
This book can be summed up best by the following passage from the book..."My approach in this book is to understand the Bible in its own ancient Near East context...", and he does that through several essays showing the differences between the God of the Bible and the gods of ancient, pagan societies, through the use of storytelling and imagery that God uses as an apologetic tool in the bible. The author uses this in his series of books, "The Chronicles of the Nephilim", which I also highly recommend!
Sound biblical teaching which may open up your eyes to a deeper understanding of God's word, and several passages that you may have always wondered about and wanted to research. This book ties in nicely with another book I have also started to read by Dr.Michael Heiser. It makes you want to study the bible even more to find the wonders of our awesome God.
I read this through once, but I plan to read it again, taking my time with it and digesting it properly and taking lots of notes!
Highly recommended for all Christians and especially for those that want to dig deeper in their bible studies!
*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. This is it.