Design and Pattern in Narrative
"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, VultureA Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019 | A Poets & Writers Best Books for Writers
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 It is a liberating manifesto that says, Let’s leave the outdated modes behind and, in thinking of new modes, bring feeling back to experimentation.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.
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016“Nine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and FuriesNine Island
is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass tower on one of Miami Beach’s lush Venetian Islands. After decades of disaster with men, she is trying to decide whether to withdraw forever from romantic love. Having just returned to Miami from a monthlong reunion with an old flame, “Sir Gold,” and a visit to her fragile mother, J begins translating Ovid’s magical stories about the transformations caused by Eros. “A woman who wants, a man who wants nothing. These two have stalked the world for thousands of years,” she thinks.
When not ruminating over her sexual past and current fantasies, in the company of only her aging cat, J observes the comic, sometimes steamy goings–on among her faded–glamour condo neighbors. One of them, a caring nurse, befriends her, eventually offering the opinion that “if you retire from love . . . then you retire from life.”