DEAR MISTER ESSAY WRITER GUY
By Dinty W. Moore. (Ten Speed Press, 199 pages, $14.99.)
Those in the know — that is, writerly types, MFA candidates and readers of the nonfiction journal Brevity — know that Dinty W. Moore is not a can of processed beef stew, but a respected essayist, professor and editor. He is also funny. His new book is directed at those writerly types — or maybe at their friends, who might be looking for an appropriate writerly gift.
“Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals” is Moore’s oddball guide to essay writing, about which he knows tons. Each chapter begins with a tongue-in-cheek question from a well-known writer — Cheryl Strayed wants to know if her love affair with em dashes is good or bad; Phillip Lopate wants to know how one writes about former girlfriends without sounding like a jerk; Roxane Gay asks why so many writers end up writing about writing. Moore provides answers (also tongue in cheek), and then produces an essay somehow inspired by the exchange.
The essays are sometimes funny, sometimes a wee bit too long (Moore must have been happy to get out from under Brevity’s 750-word constraints), and almost always, if you give them some scrutiny, useful. Not the content, necessarily, but the form.
With each essay, Moore plays with form, writing some as parables and some as personal essays, and some as chapters in a textbook, with tips and writing prompts. One is scrawled on a series of cocktail napkins; one is allegedly a voice mail from a tree trimmer; another is presented as an interactive Google map; another is in the form of a Facebook conversation.
Essays shouldn’t be stodgy or formulaic, Moore is saying. Let the form fit the content, loosen up and have a little fun. He sure did, and his writerly readers will, too.
By Lee Child. (Delacorte, 416 pages, $28.99.)
Lee Child’s “Make Me,” the 20th in his wildly popular Jack Reacher series, delivers exactly what readers have come to expect from the perennial bestselling author: interesting characters, tight plots and page-turning action.
With the basics well in hand, “Make Me” stands out for its handling of secondary characters, too. When Reacher lands in Mother’s Rest in the middle of nowhere, USA, it’s for no good reason. But a chance encounter with Michelle Chang, a private investigator with a missing partner, prompts him to hang around.
What unfolds is a dark thriller that has the pair traveling around the country trying to track the missing man and the threads of a mystery that has its roots in the Deep Web. (One of the highlights is a chapter that has Reacher and Chang questioning an elderly but whip-smart widow who sets them on the path to understanding the hidden Internet and websites that don’t want to be found.) Readers won’t be disappointed.
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