Writing was the central passion of Emerson's life. While his thoughts on the craft are well developed in "The Poet", "The American Scholar", Nature, "Goethe", and "Persian Poetry", less well known are the many pages in his private journals devoted to the relationship between writing and reading. Here, for the first time, is the Concord Sage's energetic, exuberant, and unconventional advice on the idea of writing, focused and distilled by the preeminent Emerson biographer at work today.
Emerson advised that "the way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent." First We Read, Then We Write contains numerous such surprises - from "every word we speak is million-faced" to "talent alone cannot make a writer" - but it is no mere collection of aphorisms and exhortations. Instead, in Robert Richardson's hands, the biographical and historical context in which Emerson worked becomes clear. Emerson's advice grew from his personal experience; in practically every moment of his adult life he was either preparing to write, trying to write, or writing. Richardson shows us an Emerson who is no granite bust, but instead is a fully fleshed, creative person disarmingly willing to confront his own failures.
Emerson urges his readers to try anything - strategies, tricks, makeshifts - speaking not only of the nuts and bolts of writing but also of the grain and sinew of his determination. Whether a writer by trade or a novice, every reader will find something to treasure in this volume. Fearlessly wrestling with "the birthing stage of art", Emerson's counsel on being a reader and writer will be read and reread for years to come.
"First We Read, Then We Write is enlightening. Like Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, it is an essential book that belongs in the hands of every impassioned writer, reader and teacher." (Times Higher Education)
"In this brief, elegant, and quietly passionate volume Robert Richardson has produced an invaluable handbook for the writer and aspirant writer, a copy of which should be presented to every student in every writing class around the world." (John Banville, The New York Review of Books)
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