Review: Unless it Moves the Human Heart, Roger Rosenblatt

I picked up Roger Rosenblatt’s Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing based on a recommendation from Marsha McGregor, a teaching fellow at the Kenyon Writer’s Workshop for Teachers in which I participated last week. It’s a tough book to categorize: it’s part memoir, part writing advice, and part model for teaching writing to others. It takes the unusual form of conversation as it tracks a particular writing class’s progress.

Rosenblatt explains in his preface that the book is “fiction, top to bottom” but is based on the real problems and subjects his class discussed. It’s admittedly a somewhat quirky format for a book of this type. As such, it will not appeal to all writers seeking advice (or all writing teachers seeking advice, and certainly not to people looking for a memoir). Rather than offering nuggets of wisdom in the form of bulleted lists or bold headings, Rosenblatt’s understanding of what it means to write and to teach writing is buried within the narrative about one class. As such, it invites careful reading, and I found myself reading some pages over and highlighting often. Even so, it’s a quick, conversational read.

I pulled a few ideas for lessons from its pages. I loved the discussion he shared of James Joyce’s short story “Clay,” which I also stopped to read before continuing with that part of Rosenblatt’s book. He has a another idea for students to create their own anthologies—not of their own work, but of poems they like and want to group together. As Rosenblatt says, “By the end of the course they have created a little book that speaks for their taste” (67). The book has many excellent reading recommendations (a book that added to my TBR pile—just what I need!). In particular, Rosenblatt shares models he uses for teaching personal essays as well as types of personal essays he assigns. His descriptions of class discussions are great models for lessons.

As I write all of this, I wonder if I shouldn’t have reviewed this book on my education blog, whose audience might more be the audience for this book, but I’m not entirely sure. I think anyone who writes might benefit from reading it. As I said, the time investment isn’t great—the book is only about 150 pages—and the dividends are worth it.

[rating:5/5]

Top Ten Tuesday: Twitter

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/I have to admit that I love Twitter, but I use it more professionally—sharing links and resources with others and collecting the links and resources other share. Twitter is a great resource for teachers. I do love the way the Eleventh Doctor mutters “Twitter” whenever it comes up, though. I wonder if Twelve will like Twitter?

At any rate, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday concerns which authors or characters I’d like to see on Twitter. I’m going to do a 50/50 split of authors and characters, just to mix it up.

Authors

In no particular order, I wish I could see the following writers on Twitter:

  1. Oscar Wilde: His acerbic wit and penchant for the best bon mots would make him perfect for Twitter. He would be hilarious, catty, and fun.
  2. William Shakespeare: I wonder what the Bard could do with 140 characters. It would be interesting to see what topics he would choose to discuss, too.
  3. Emily Dickinson: Another one for interesting turns of phrase, but I suspect her account would be sort of like those friends who post “Vaguebook” status updates, and I doubt she would reply, retweet, or follow anyone.
  4. J.K. Rowling: She actually does have a Twitter account, but she never tweets. I wish she would. Wouldn’t it be fun if she answered fan questions and engaged with readers the way other writers like Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and John Green do?
  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald: What a hell of a Twitter feed that would be to read, whether he was tweeting beautiful lines or dishing about the crazy shenanigans he and Zelda were up to.

Characters

In no particular order, I wish I could see the following characters on Twitter:

  1. Elizabeth Bennet of [amazon_link id=”0486284735″ target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link]: She’d be the most fun on Twitter. I don’t think she’d be as taciturn as Mr. Darcy. I would love to see what sorts of comments she would make.
  2. Puck: The impish sprite from [amazon_link id=”0743477545″ target=”_blank” ]A Midsummer Night’s Dream[/amazon_link] would probably have some fairly interesting commentary about the nature of humanity: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
  3. Bilbo Baggins of [amazon_link id=”0618002219″ target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit: or There and Back Again[/amazon_link]: I have so much affection for this guy. He’s funny. Wouldn’t it be great to see him complain about the Sackville-Bagginses? Even better, wouldn’t it be cool to read his exchanges with @GandalftheGrey?
  4. Albus Dumbledore: Another one for wise axioms perfect for Twitter. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to read his exchanges with @GandalftheGrey? (See what I did there?)
  5. Naturally @GandalftheGrey would have some interesting things to say.

Who would you like to see take to Twitter?