Review of Sol Stein’s ‘Stein on Writing’

Sol Stein’s ‘Stein on Writing’ might be labeled a tome. Over a thousand pages on my Kobo the book is nothing if not thorough. He covers everything important on the craft of writing. I’ve read over a dozen writing books in the last six months (I have lots of spare time) and I nodded again and again at the good advice offered. These are the kind of rules and suggestions that every writer should have in the front of their mind while editing and re-writing any work of prose.
It is a dry text, more of a textbook than a conversational encouragement. Very little of the author’s personality shows through. And the part that does reminds this reviewer of being cornered at a cocktail party by an expert in his field who enjoys hearing himself talk. The reader will learn a lot of the craft if he can get past the self righteousness.
I am reminded of a great quote from the recently deceased Jim Lehrer of PBS. ‘Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.’ I did not get the feeling Sol Stein subscribed to this thinking. Which is too bad.
Purchasing and reading a book is a commitment of money and time. You will spend ten, fifteen hours or more with this author. In the case of ‘Stein on Writing’, I found I couldn’t spend more than an hour or two at a time. I did learn a lot from it, and I do recommend budding writers read it and note the tips.
There are lots of other authors, who have written books on writing, who are more fun to spend time with. Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Steven King, Dorothea Brande, Ariel Gore, Brenda Ueland. Each of those authors left me feeling stimulated and encouraged. And thinking I would LOVE to run into them at a cocktail party.