Finding your inner author
A. Alvarez's The Writer's Voice is a relatively brief but concentrated exegesis in which the noted poet, novelist and literary critic addresses an advanced area of the writer's challenge. "For a writer," Alvarez states, "voice is a problem that never lets you go, and I have thought about it for as long as I can remember if for no other reason than that a writer doesn't properly begin until he has a voice of his own." Nuts-and-bolts guidelines on achieving voice don't really exist, and Alvarez attempts instead to describe this somewhat elusive notion, offering a mini-seminar that ranges far and wide over writers and various writing movements, from Coleridge to Ginsberg, with side trips to the New Criticism of the 1950s, the Extremist poets, the modernism of Pound and Eliot, the Beats, Shakespeare, Roth, Cheever and Henry James. Alvarez spends serious time defining the distinctions between prose and poetry, and his obvious affection for the latter (Berryman, Plath, Sexton and others) leads him into interesting discussions on the music and rhythm of words, on the importance of listening, on voice as opposed to style concluding with the hard-won realization that "true eloquence is harder than it looks." There's a lot more here, as Alvarez manages to bring international politics, Freud, Romantic Agony and the cult of personality into his discussion. He does it all with wit and erudition; indeed, his own voice is nothing if not confident. According to Alvarez, "It is the business of writers to create as true a voice as they can if only to show themselves that it can be done, and in the hope that someone out there is listening."