The Spooky Art

This book, by Norman Mailer, is one that came to me via recommendation from a friend whose opinion I hold in high regard. It is the first work of Mailer’s I have read and-while I felt strange having his thoughts on writing be the first thing I read-I felt it was suitable so I could take his beliefs and ideas at face value instead of weighing them by the merit of his other work.

Mailer’s insight on the art has worth in the function as a crutch for a writer struggling to find direction. But, this should not be confused with a ‘How To’ book. He primarily portrays his own experiences in the writing profession, where he was fortunate enough to find some early fame. 

I would classify the majority of the information inside as highly useful, but there are portions of the book where Mailer becomes too heavily involved with his personal experiences and interests. For example, I felt his section on Genre was way over done. He gets into describing the quirks of journalism vs. fiction writing vs. film vs. theatre and, while there are intriguing moments, he gets carried away in these descriptions giving much of the work here a distracted, forced feeling.

In it’s essence The Spooky Art does a fantastic job of breaking the work of a writer into the different challenges a writer will face-Lit Biz, Craft, Psychology, Philosophy(These are the sections of Part I, which I felt would have been much more effective standing apart from the rest of the book)- but get lost and carried away with being a writer first and extends this book way beyond it’s purpose, or at least what I felt it’s intended purpose should have been.

I would recommend this book to anybody invested in the work of becoming a writer, just be aware that you are getting yourself involved in a bit more than you might be interested in. It certainly could have been shorter in length, but I also feel like that is a common complaint from much of the world who thinks they have better things to do than read.


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