In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it “helped her build the writing muscles needed” to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as “turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack,” his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that “the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle.”
Neurotic writers or friends-of-writers are likely to have asked themselves an uncomfortable question: do the writers I know use my foibles for material? At The New Statesman, Oliver Farry lists a number of proofs that they do, citing Dante’s Inferno, Madame Bovary and Beckett’s debut novel Murphy.