Book Recommendation

by johnmccreery

Kirin Narayan’s Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov is not a book likely to make it onto bestseller lists. The audience, people with an interest in the art of writing ethnography, is too small. It is, however, a marvelous book about writing non-fiction prose, taking as its primary example Anton Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island, and examining how the great Russian storyteller and dramatist, who was also a medical doctor, produced a work in which,

By closely attending to the people who lived under the appalling conditions of the Russian penal colony on Sakhalin, Chekhov showed how empirical details combined with a literary flair can bring readers face to face with distant, different lives, enlarging a sense of human responsibility.

Narayan is herself a superb writer. I remember reading with pleasure her Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels and who could not love an autobiographical ethnography titled My Family and Other Saints. Of particular interest to the teachers among us is the way in which she uses examples from Chekhov and other accomplished writers to motivate the writing exercises with which Alive in the Writing is liberally sprinkled. Were I in a position to teach non-fiction writing, I would instantly choose this book as the textbook for the class and recommend it along with other classics like William Zinsser’s Writing to Learn and Writing Well and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down to the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. 

Advertisements
Tags:

5 Comments to “Book Recommendation”

  1. This looks great. It’s interesting, I was just reading a review of a couple books on Chekhov and thinking what an interesting mind – liking people yet stand-offish and exhausted by the infinite variety of our self-defeats. His reasons for the arduous (and magnificently self-defeating) trip to Sakhalin seem not entirely clear, although it may have had something to do with his sense of being trapped within flawed humanity.

  2. Where were the reviews? Are the online?

  3. I’m afraid most of it is behind the pay-wall at NYRB.

  4. Carl, NYRB has just acquired a new, online-only subscriber.

  5. You need to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the web.
    I am going to recommend this website!

Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: