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The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers





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About the book:

In The Art of Nonfiction, Ayn Rand spends six pages explaining why something she wrote about the launching of Apollo II is far superior to something Loudon Wainwright wrote about it; throughout the book, she uses her own work as examples of exemplary writing. Somehow, though, Rand's robust ego is less unbearable here than it is in, say, her Art of Fiction.

This book is a frank demystification of the writing process that originated as a series of lectures given in 1969 to friends and other potential contributors to Rand's magazine, The Objectivist. "Any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction," Rand declares. All you need "is what you need for life in general: an orderly method of thinking." Rand values clarity above all else in nonfiction writing, and it is her own clearheadedness that makes this book appealing. Within these pages, Rand discusses subject and theme, audience, philosophy, outlines, writing, and editing. She takes swipes at The New Yorker for its "'brilliant' essays that say nothing," and at William Buckley, whose "trademark is to use words he probably spends half his time looking up in the dictionary." She rails against disruptions ("When I was writing Atlas Shrugged, I accepted neither day nor evening appointments, with rare exceptions, for roughly thirteen years"). And she is an exacting taskmaster who demands that you not choose a lesser aspect of a subject than "the deepest one that interests you and that you can do." Finally, says Rand, you must write from a position of complete confidence and omnipotence. "While you are writing," she says, "you must be God's perfect creature (if there were a God)." --Jane Steinberg

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