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For more than forty years, distinguished author Roger Rosenblatt has also been a teacher of writing, guiding students with the same intelligence and generosity he brings to the page, answering the difficult questions about what makes a story good, an essay shapely, a novel successful, and the most profound and essential question of them all—why write?

Unless It Moves the Human Heart details one semester in Rosenblatt's "Writing Everything" class. In a series of funny, intimate conversations, a diverse group of students—from Inur, a young woman whose family is from Pakistan, to Sven, an ex–fighter pilot—grapples with the questions and subjects most important to narrative craft. Delving into their varied lives, Rosenblatt brings readers closer to them, emotionally investing us in their failures and triumphs.

More than a how-to for writers and aspiring writers, more than a memoir of teaching, Unless It Moves the Human Heart is a deeply felt and impassioned plea for the necessity of writing in our lives. As Rosenblatt wisely reminds us, "Writing is the cure for the disease of living. Doing it may sometimes feel like an escape from the world, but at its best moments it is an act of rescue."

Published: HarperCollins on Jan 4, 2011
ISBN: 9780062037251
List price: $10.39
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Roger Rosenblatt is a huge name in the world of writing. He's written magazine columns, plays, essays, and books and is a master of language. I've always enjoyed his articles in Time-he's a favorite of mine. In this book he describes a semester of teaching several students to write, by having them experiment with different forms of fiction and poetry. In an interview for his book, he describes the concepts he wanted to bring to the classroom to inspire his students: "In one instance, I closed the door and the sound of the closing door would be another sensory stimulus. Once I did it, then I saw that they launched into their work with an entirely different vocabulary and an entirely different zest and a feeling of themselves. Then I began to think, there are other things one can really do to teach one to write in a more sophisticated way. And I started to pay attention to such things. I started paying attention to [things like] the power of the noun, to using anticipation over surprise, imagination over invention, things like this that are not exactly nuts and bolts of writing but they are related and they work in the service of a larger goal." ------------CSMonitor 2/6/2011Being excited to read these slim guidebook, I was hoping to find ways to improve my own writing with useful advice. I've already learned that I need to be more succinct and edit more carefully. I appreciate what his purpose is, to help writers find humanity in their writing and go beyond the easiest cliches and visual images. I'm sure the actual students that he taught enjoyed the class (I know I would have loved taking it), but reading about it second-hand, almost as if eavesdropping on the class, is incredibly disappointing. I'm not sure if it's because the dialogue (which must have been recorded for him to have so much detail?) sounds stilted or because the students sound artificial, but it just doesn't feel real. Many times he'll ask a question of the class as a way to open a conversation, but often his advice came off as contrary to what he just stated. It's almost as if it would have been simpler to say "there are no hard and fast rules to writing", because that's the message the book gives. While the involved conversations and arguments in the classroom show intelligent students with a challenging teacher, hearing his interpretation of them and their work is annoying. I'm not sure who would most enjoy the book. Perhaps for someone looking for motivation to write more experimentally, it would be useful. But for those of us still working on the basics, it wasn't that helpful. I know, I know....I'm setting myself up by saying that about such an esteemed writer. It pretty much guarantees that this post will be full of typos and bad grammar. In any case, for a better experience, his book Making Toast is far more enjoyable and insightful.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is written as if it were verbatim excerpts from a writing class, but the teaching moments are simply awkward.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A book on writing that made me think of my place in the world and occasionally made me weep.A book every writer (or parent, sibling, or friend of a writer) should own.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Roger Rosenblatt is a huge name in the world of writing. He's written magazine columns, plays, essays, and books and is a master of language. I've always enjoyed his articles in Time-he's a favorite of mine. In this book he describes a semester of teaching several students to write, by having them experiment with different forms of fiction and poetry. In an interview for his book, he describes the concepts he wanted to bring to the classroom to inspire his students: "In one instance, I closed the door and the sound of the closing door would be another sensory stimulus. Once I did it, then I saw that they launched into their work with an entirely different vocabulary and an entirely different zest and a feeling of themselves. Then I began to think, there are other things one can really do to teach one to write in a more sophisticated way. And I started to pay attention to such things. I started paying attention to [things like] the power of the noun, to using anticipation over surprise, imagination over invention, things like this that are not exactly nuts and bolts of writing but they are related and they work in the service of a larger goal." ------------CSMonitor 2/6/2011Being excited to read these slim guidebook, I was hoping to find ways to improve my own writing with useful advice. I've already learned that I need to be more succinct and edit more carefully. I appreciate what his purpose is, to help writers find humanity in their writing and go beyond the easiest cliches and visual images. I'm sure the actual students that he taught enjoyed the class (I know I would have loved taking it), but reading about it second-hand, almost as if eavesdropping on the class, is incredibly disappointing. I'm not sure if it's because the dialogue (which must have been recorded for him to have so much detail?) sounds stilted or because the students sound artificial, but it just doesn't feel real. Many times he'll ask a question of the class as a way to open a conversation, but often his advice came off as contrary to what he just stated. It's almost as if it would have been simpler to say "there are no hard and fast rules to writing", because that's the message the book gives. While the involved conversations and arguments in the classroom show intelligent students with a challenging teacher, hearing his interpretation of them and their work is annoying. I'm not sure who would most enjoy the book. Perhaps for someone looking for motivation to write more experimentally, it would be useful. But for those of us still working on the basics, it wasn't that helpful. I know, I know....I'm setting myself up by saying that about such an esteemed writer. It pretty much guarantees that this post will be full of typos and bad grammar. In any case, for a better experience, his book Making Toast is far more enjoyable and insightful.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is written as if it were verbatim excerpts from a writing class, but the teaching moments are simply awkward.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A book on writing that made me think of my place in the world and occasionally made me weep.A book every writer (or parent, sibling, or friend of a writer) should own.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I love the way that Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast as well as several other books, can squeeze so much meaning in so few words. His latest is somewhat a collection of ideas, discussions, and exercises that he has put his writing students through (he is a professor of English and Writing at Stonybrook University), though he does start off by saying "To be clear: nobody really said what I say they said in class. But the ideas expressed here were expressed there." And there is sooooo much good stuff in here, even for the casual writer. My copy is all marked up already! One of my favorite gems in this book is "...in fiction you treat facts differently. You dream into them and make them works of art." That line has lived vividly in my imagination since I read it, and I know that it will continue to influence me for the rest of my life. Yes, this is that kind of book. The kind that will change your life with a few carefully written words. Amazing.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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