Book Review: Light In The Dark

Light In The Dark:  Writers On Creativity, Inspiration, And The Artistic Process, edited by Joe Fossler

My own feelings about this book are somewhat ambivalent, as is often the case when it comes to books dealing with authors talking about creativity and inspiration.  On the one hand, these particular authors show a great deal of respect for those who helped inspire them (and some, it should be noted, claim the inspiration of scripture in their own desire to become authors), and to see people give honor and respect to others as providing encouragement and an example to follow is heartening and worthwhile.  On the other hand, many of these authors seem to think that they are somewhat important and the self-importance of some of these authors and the way that they expect others to view them as an inspiration is not always equally enjoyable.  To be sure, I knew some of these authors and liked some of their comments but quite a few of the authors were people whose writings I am unfamiliar with and whose perspectives I do not consider particularly noteworthy of important or worthwhile.  A book like this can be taken as evidence of the need that creative people have for viewing their own personal and idiosyncratic reasons as generally applicable abstract and universal truths, and there are obviously both good and bad sides of that.

This book consists of more than 300 pages of various writers holding court about their own views of creativity, inspiration, and the artistic process.  Each chapter is written by a different writer, some famous and a great many obscure and perhaps only known to genre readers in genres I do not know much about and each chapter includes a quote from a source of inspiration that the writers midrash about through the rest of their essays.  Some of the writers are particularly famous, including:  Stephen King, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Charles Simic, Jane Smiley, and Neil Gaiman.  Others are much more obscure but may be familiar to the reader.  In general, many of the writers express gratitude for the way that the works of others helped them to justify their own personality quirks and flaws, or helped them find a place in the world or the knowledge that other people were like them and that they were not so alone in the world as they had thought.  A great many of the writers also feel the need to express their own (sometimes unwelcome) opinions about various social and political matters as well as their own occasional self-absorption.

Those who appreciate the writers included in this book will likely find a great deal that they enjoy from reading about the creative process and views of inspiration that these writers have.  Some people may have a great deal of respect for the thinking of creative types as a whole, and some will have a respect for one or more of the people included, and where this is the case the book can be read profitably and enjoyably.  In my own judgment, for what it’s worth, this book is of most interest to those who as creative artists (especially writers) they wish to find in the words of other writers ways to articulate their own views about the artistic process as well as the expectation that others would find their own views of interest.  Far be it from me to uncharitably view the desires of people like myself to be respected for their personal views, but I wonder if the people who are so intent on expressing their own opinions are as charitable about the opinions of others who may have very different ideas about creativity than they do, not least when people like those in this book stray from the reservation and talk about a great deal that is less easy to accept than views about the artistic process in the course of bloviating in self-importance.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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