Words For Readers and Writers: a book review

When I picked up Word for Readers and Writers: Spirit-Pooled Dialogues I had no idea who Larry Woiwode was. I had read his bio and knew he was an award winning novelist (William Faulkner Foundation Award, John DosPassos Prize, plus a finalist for the National Book Award and Book Critics Circle Award), recipient of the Medal of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Poet Laureate for the state of Norht Dakota since 1995. But I had not read any of his works, much less heard of them until I picked up this book.

I loved the beauty of Woiwode’s prose and am sure that this will not be the last of his books I read(unfortunately my local library only has a couple of his other books). These essays are compiled from previous publications in various journals and publications. They showcase  Woidwode’s grasp of English literature and a lifetime of working with words. Some of these essays reflect on Woidwode’s own literary endeavors (there are a couple interviews of him in the collection). Other essays probe the writing of others. Still others are more reflective about the nature of writing and craft. My favorite of these essays (A Fifty-Year Walk with Right Words or A Writer’s Feel of Internal Bleeding, A to Z) are personally revealing. 

These essays form 21 chapters, organized into three parts: Uses of Words, Users of Words, Realms of Users. The theme joining the essays in each part is not always immediately apparent but in general part one  is more descriptive of Woidworde’s own understanding of metaphor and words, part two (primarily) describes other writers, part three discusses the nature of writing and explores writing in different contexts. But these divisions are fluid and each essay (or interview, or speech) is a stand-alone piece. 

I came away from reading this, wanting to read more Woidwode. He is a Christian author and self consciously so, but he doesn’t beat you over the head with his faith.  My standing critique of Christian novelists is that they are all ‘tell’ with very little ‘show.’ By that I mean that their prose is baldly didactic with very little craft. In a novel that is unforgivable. But in a volume of essays I may let a little ‘telliness’ slide.

However I was pleasantly surprised. These essays are well crafted and beautiful.  The importance of Woiwode’s faith is evident but this isn’t an apologetic or a thinly-veiled Bible lesson. This is a celebration of the power of words by a man who had dedicated his life and career to wordcraft. I enjoyed this book a lot. I give it four stars.

Thank you to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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