University of Michigan Press, 2005
Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing is a book about what makes fiction work. In nine entertaining and instructive essays, novelist and master teacher Debra Spark pursues key questions that face both aspiring and accomplished writers, including: How does a writer find inspiration? What makes a story’s closing line resonate? How can a writer “get” style? Where should an author “stand” in relation to his or her characters?
While the book will have immediate appeal for students of writing, it will also be of interest to general readers for its in-depth reading of contemporary fiction and for its take on important issues of the day: Should writers try to be more uplifting? How is emotion best conveyed in fiction? Why are serious writers in North America wedded to the realist tradition?
Spark brings her keen critical eye to Curious Attractions, discussing a broad range of authors from multiple genres and generations.
A collection of essays in the belles-lettres tradition, Curious Attractions offers lively and instructive discussions of craft flavored with autobiographical reflections and commentary on world events. Throughout, Spark’s voice is warm, articulate and engaging as it provides valuable insights to readers and writers alike.
“Spark is so adept at avoiding the typical pitfalls of this genre, she could write a book about writing a book on fiction writing.”
— Time Out Chicago
“Erudite and entertaining.”
“One of the many loaded questions Spark poses is, Why is there so little ‘happy fiction’? Readers may ask, how much fun can a book about writing fiction be? The answer: a whole lot with Spark as your guide. An adventurous novelist and an experienced teacher, she takes a personal, anecdotal approach to the challenge of creating fiction, lacing her illuminating essays with provocative quotes from writers as varied as Raymond Carver and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Spark writes about where stories come from, why openings and closings are so difficult to pull off, what we mean by style, the difference between sentiment and sentimentality, and how magic realism fares in North America. Her lines of inquiry are significant. Her observations about craft are fluent. And her ability to both analyze fiction and respect its mystery makes for a suitably frank and bemused perspective backed by unabashed wonder at the workings of the imagination and the undeniable power of literature. Spark’s canny essays are a pleasure for readers and writers alike.”
“Spark (creative writing, Colby College) has both novice and experienced writers in mind as she works through key questions about fiction writing. Drawing on decades of teaching and writing experience, she tackles such universal topics for writers as inspiration, getting in and getting out of a work, style, emotion, realism and its constant presence in North American writing, the short novel, fabulism, detachment and involvement, and the nearly overwhelming urge to create propaganda, be it for one’s politics or one’s need to make everyone cheerful, even if it hurts. The result is not only a guide to thinking about writing, but also a commentary upon professionalism, taking responsibility, and growing up.”