The Story About the Story Vol. II

In the second volume of The Story About the Story, editor J. C. Hallman continues to argue for an alternative to the staid five-paragraph-essay writing that has inoculated so many against the effects of good books. Writers have long approached writing about reading from an intensely personal perspective, incorporating their pasts and their passions into their process of interpretation. Never before collected in a single volume, the many essays Hallman has compiled build on the idea of a "creative criticism," and offers new possibilities for how to write about reading.

The Story About the Story Vol. II documents not only an identifiable trend in writing about books that can and should be emulated, it also offers lessons from a remarkable range of celebrated authors that amount to an invaluable course on both how to write and how to read well. Whether they discuss a staple of the canon (Thomas Mann on Leo Tolstoy), the merits of a contemporary (Vivian Gornick on Grace Paley), a pillar of genre-writing (Jane Tompkins on Louis L’Amour), or, arguably, the funniest man on the planet (David Shields on Bill Murray), these essays are by turns poignant, smart, suggestive, intellectual, humorous, sassy, scathing, laudatory, wistful, and hopeful—and above all deeply engaged in a process of careful reading. The essays in The Story About the Story Vol. II chart a trajectory that digs deep into the past and aims toward a future in which literature can play a new and more profound role in how we think, read, live, and write.
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  • Page Count: 352
  • Direct Price: 15.20
  • List Price: 18.95
  • 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
  • October 2013
  • 978-1-935639-68-8
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In addition to editing The Story About the Story, J.C. Hallman is the author of several books, including The Chess Artist,In UtopiaWm & H'ry, and B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal
The list of contributors includes:

1) Wendy Lesser on Cervantes
2) Philip Lopate on Stendhal 
3) John Berryman on Anne Frank
4) David Shields on Bill Murray 
5) Zadie Smith on Hurston F 
6) Charles Baxter on Chekhov
7) Thomas Mann on Tolstoy
8) Jane Tompkins on L’Amour
9) Joyce Carol Oates on Mary Shelley
10) Martin Amis on Larkin
11) Margaret Atwood on Wells 
12) Michael Dirda on “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”
13) Walter Benjamin on Leskov
14) Nicholson Baker on Defoe 
15) James Thurber on James 
16) Elizabeth Hardwick on Melville 
17) David Foster Wallace on Updike
18) Jacque Barzun on Abraham Lincoln
19) Vivian Gornick on Paley 
20) H.L. Mencken on Dreiser 
21) Susan Cheever on Alcott
22) Ralph Ellison on Crane 
23) Joseph Conrad on Crane 
24) Francisco Goldman on Bolano 
25) Katherine Anne Porter on Cather 
26) Harold Bloom on Hans Christian Andersen
Praise for the Story About The Story series

"More than just a beautiful read . . . .The series is in its own way important to the world. Because if there’s any justice out there, it’ll eventually find its way into those dull high-school curricula.

To counteract the joyless misreadings and picking of scabs that have become today’s literary criticism, Hallman is collecting writing about books that is every bit as personal, humane and emotionally rich as the books themselves."
The Willamette Week

"The problem with this book: too many irresistible things.”
—James Salter, author of A Sport and a Pastime

"All great criticism begins with love. After all, we read books not from obligation but for pleasure, for mental excitement, for what A.E. Housman called the tingle at the back of the neck. In The Story About the Story there are no merely literary essays: Instead J.C. Hallman has gathered love letters, exuberant appreciations, confessions of envy and admiration. In these pages some of our finest writers stand up and testify to the power of literature to shake and shape our very souls."
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Bound to Please

"An invaluable guide for any reader of literature, as well as for the practitioners themselves."
—Daniel Halpern; editor of The Art of the Story

“There is no better path to the heart of a great writer’s expression than keen intuition born of deep regard, and no one more likely to have both than a fellow writer. This collection of master reader-writers appraising their admirations is not in the least predictable. Turn the pages: surprise, surprise, surprise!
—Sven Birkerts, author of Reading Life: Books for the Ages and The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

“A novel, yes. A film, yes. But when have you ever been sorry for a book of essays to end? I was with this book. Each of these essays investigates good writing by writing well about it. They are all formally elegant and smart, smart, smart. Anda delight to read.”
—Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy

"If you love literature, don' borrow The Story About the Story, because you'll never give it back. Buy it."
—Salon.com