In this new contribution to Yale University Press’s Why X Matters series, a distinguished writer and scholar tackles central questions of the discipline of writing. Drawing on his own experience with such mentors as John Updike, John Gardner, and James Baldwin, and in turn having taught such rising stars as Jesmyn Ward, Delbanco looks in particular at questions of influence and the contradictory, simultaneous impulses toward imitation and originality. Part memoir, part literary history, and part analysis, this unique text will resonate with students, writers, writing teachers, and bibliophiles.
“Chatty, affable . . . [and] an eloquent endorsement of the writing class as nurturing and galvanizing community.”—Joe Moran, Times Literary Supplement
“The insights on workshop dynamics, the smart observations, the loving attention to words and voice, the wisdom acquired by many years of reading, writing, and teaching, make this a valuable, entertaining, and accessible study of writing.”—Robert Morgan, Cornell University
"The wisdom of a superb, experienced writer and inspired teacher are here distilled for our pleasure. We have much to learn from Delbanco's maturity, broad perspective and erudition—not least his kindness and encouragement when all is said and done, his devotion to literature and to all those who struggle to achieve it."—Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell
"This book is a tribute to rigor, to close reading, to paying attention. Reading it is like participating in an exclusive workshop taught by a master of the craft."—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
"Superb writer, erudite scholar, wise teacher—Delbanco makes the written word sing, and how. No reader of this book—itself an impassioned work of literature—will ever take writing for granted again.”—James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword
"Nicholas Delbanco has long been not only one of America’s finest writers but also teachers of the craft. And Why Writing Matters is his generous gift to us all—filled with wisdom, revelations, and, of course, exquisite writing. We might not have been able to attend his masterclass on the power of words, but thankfully we can cherish these pages, which prove it."—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon