Michael Lydon's four-essay volume, Writing and Life, is a learned yet awestruck celebration of writing--in particular, of writers' abilities to bring to life whole worlds by the mere marking of black symbols on a white page. Lydon's joyful literary discussions send the reader back to the exemplars of fine writing: Austen, Dickens, Defoe, Dostoyevsky, Philip Roth, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and E.B. White among others.
While Lydon's examinations of writing's relationship to art, thought, the self, and realism are not in the least prescriptive, they should be of considerable interest to the writer as well as the reader. Among Lydon's many salient points is his argument that fine writing succeeds "not by pointing us proudly to the page but by suggesting how we may look through the page to all that lies beyond." Along these lines, Lydon argues that "writing serves thought, not the other way around," and that the "miracle of writing" is that it "conveys thought mind-to-mind as if it were not there at all." Finally, though, it is Lydon's unabashed love of and thankfulness for fine literature that is as exhilarating to the reader as his favorite books are to him. "The webs [good writers] weave," he says, "become hammocks in which I lie back with utmost trust while they sing charming melodies in word. The ideas and pleasure they give challenge and cheer me, the joys and sorrows they relate convince me they know my own." --Jane Steinberg