First published in 1921, by Jonathan Cape, Percy Lubbock’s “The Craft of Fiction” is a classic work on the novelist’s art. When I read it for the first time in the late 1960s it left an indelible impression on me.
The book has a thought-provoking first page, which I quote below:
“To grasp the shadowy and fantasmal form of a book, to hold it fast, to turn it over and survey it at leisure – that is the effort of a critic of books, and it is perpetually defeated. Nothing, no power, will keep a book steady and motionless before us, so that we may have time to examine its form and design. As quickly as we read, it melts and shifts in the memory; even at the moment when the last page is turned, a great part of the book, its finer detail, is already vague and doubtful. A little later, after a few days or months, how much is really left of it? A cluster of impressions, some clear points emerging from a mist of uncertainty, that is all we can hope to possess, generally speaking, in the name of the book. The experience of reading it has left something behind, and these relics we call by the book’s name; but how can they be considered to give us the material for judging and appraising the book? Nobody would venture to criticize a building, a statue, a picture, with nothing before him but the memory of a single glimpse caught in passing; yet the critic of literature, on the whole, has to found his opinion on little more.”
Lubbock then goes on to provide the reader with extraordinary insights into the understanding of great fiction. It is a book which warrants reading and rereading, to which my well-thumbed copy will testify.