A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019

One of Poets & Writers‘ Best Books for Writers

“How lovely to discover a book on the craft of writing that is also fun to read. . . Alison asserts that the best stories follow patterns in nature, and by defining these new styles she offers writers the freedom to explore but with enough guidance to thrive.” ―Maris Kreizman, Vulture

As Jane Alison writes in the introduction to her insightful and appealing book about the craft of writing: “For centuries there’s been one path through fiction we’re most likely to travel― one we’re actually told to follow―and that’s the dramatic arc: a situation arises, grows tense, reaches a peak, subsides . . . But something that swells and tautens until climax, then collapses? Bit masculosexual, no? So many other patterns run through nature, tracing other deep motions in life. Why not draw on them, too?”

W. G. Sebald’s Emigrants was the first novel to show Alison how forward momentum can be created by way of pattern, rather than the traditional arc― or, in nature, wave. Other writers of nonlinear prose considered in her “museum of specimens” include Nicholson Baker, Anne Carson, Marguerite Duras, Gabriel García Márquez, Jamaica Kincaid, Clarice Lispector, Susan Minot, David Mitchell, Caryl Phillips, and Mary Robison.

Meander, Spiral, Explode is a singular and brilliant elucidation of literary strategies that also brings high spirits and wit to its original conclusions. It is a liberating manifesto that says, Let’s leave the outdated modes behind and, in thinking of new modes, bring feeling back to experimentation. It will appeal to serious readers and writers alike.

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This article has 3 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Slightly disappointing. I’d have found more value in it had the author also detected variant patterns in some rather more time-tested fiction (just because a novel is old doesn’t mean it must needs have been written in Aristotelian fashion), but she limited her observations to authors of recent works unknown to me. As an “organic writing” author myself, I had suspected the existence of different story structures (my own first novel, written with no advance plan or outline, exhibits a distinctly meandering wave-form)…

  2. Anonymous

    Think in new patterns I loved this book. It was a refreshing take on writing and/or organizing thoughts. Maybe it is just because I think like the author, but I feel that this book should be used in writing classes in contrast to all of the other texts that tell you there’s one way to plot something.There is a section about word choice/sound that really excited me because it is something I consider in writing (and reading), but had not been able to describe concretely or succinctly. I wish I would have…

  3. Anonymous

    So important for writers who have heard too much about arcs!

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