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Jack Hodgins
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1993. 304pp, cloth, $16.99
ISBN 07710-4188-8. CIP

Subject Headings:

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Janet McKinlay

Volume 22 Number 1
1994 Jan/Feb

Jack Hodgins, author and English professor, has written A Passion for Narrative: A Guide For Writing Fiction in the hopes that he will "no longer receive so many letters from former students requesting class handouts that they have misplaced over the years."

While he is quick to acknowledge the difficult task of teaching writing through a book, he states that "his own passion for all aspects of narrative makes it impossible for him to keep his thoughts to himself." It is this passion, which is so evident, that makes this book so successful. Hodgins warns, however, that those who are not "already passionately eager to write fiction" should not read this book, because writing is difficult work.

While acknowledging that the writing process is not necessarily linear, Hodgins has arranged his book in a way that brings some kind of sense to the "chaos that is writing fiction." He begins with "Getting Started: Finding Stories Meant for You." The rest of the book is dedicated to discussing such aspects of writing as sentence structure, setting, character, plot, point of new, voice, metaphors, symbols, allusions, and revising.

The book is well organized with each section following an established format: each begins with a quote from another source on writing or reading, contains a variety of activities and exercises designed to help the aspiring author develop skills and creativity, and ends with a list of recommended reading.

The author intersperses his discussions of technique with quotes and excerpts from a variety of Canadian, Australian and New Zealand authors, many not so well known. This is one of the major strengths of his book. Hodgins provides a wealth of concrete personal examples and writes with a delightful sense of humour. He does not promise to make the reader a "great writer" but hopes that by reading this book and doing the exercises, the aspiring author will become a "better writer" and most certainly "a better and more appreciative reader."

This book would be suitable for public, academic, and high school library collections. It would be readily used by senior students wishing to hone their creative writing skills. Teachers of English will also find a wealth of ideas that can be used in the classroom.

Highly recommended.

Janet McKinlay is a teacher-librarian at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver, British Columbia
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