Archive for ‘Review’

July 3, 2010

Review of “From Where You Dream”

Robert Olen Butler

Grove Press (March 2005, 288 pages)

Review by Erin Pennington


Achieving Thrum: An Analysis of Robert Olen Butler’s Method-writing Approach

           In From Where You Dream, Robert Olen Butler delivers on his promise to render a semester-long fiction course in two hundred and sixty nine pages. The book is comprised of lectures to his students at Florida State University. Through accessible and illustrative examples, Butler pushes those writers willing to open themselves to his method to be brave, to look ahead and not to avert their eyes. Instead of shying away from the difficulties of transcendent writing which culminate in writing from one’s “head,” he prods writers to enter their “dreamspace.”  This work furthers the tried-but-true mantra of most fiction writing workshops, “show, don’t tell,” scaffolding a concrete framework upon which budding or established writers can build and integrate fresh meaning. By the finish, the reader is hastened to the conclusion that a piece of writing is nothing less than a work of art, whose structure must grow organically rather than resulting from an end-run process, externally embossed by the unbending stamp of intellect. While From Where You Dream was published in 2005, Butler’s suggestions that writers envision themselves as sensualists rather than intellectuals and conduct the work of writing in keeping with this self-conception remains timely for any writer, budding or practiced.

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