Book Review

Book Review: Essays in the Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rating: Three out of five stars

18978961I almost gave this book four stars in the beginning for being wordy, consistent with the writing style of the time. As I continued reading, I upgraded it to a five-star rating because of his passion. I fell in love with this quote:

“Literature, although it stands apart by reason of the great destiny and general use of its medium in the affairs of men, is yet an art like other arts. Of these we may distinguish two great classes: those arts, like sculpture, painting, and acting, which are representative, or as used to be said very clumsily, imitative; and those, like architecture, music, and the dance, which are self-sufficient, and merely presentative.”

Regarding this quote, I like to think that literature straddles both categories.

As is expected from most white male eighteenth century authors, Stevenson writes with a very male-centric perspective, often describing things as “manly” or “unmanly.” I could even ignore the constant use of “he” to describe a “writer,” as that was the tradition of the time. Then, this quote happened:

“But there seemed elements of success about this enterprise. It was to be a story for boys; no need of psychology or fine writing; and I had a boy at hand to be a touchstone. Women were excluded.”

And suddenly I lost all interest in the book. I cannot subscribe to the thought process that a successful element in the book was its exclusion of women. I docked two stars from my rating; one for the thick wordiness, and the other for the sexism. This book serves nothing more than being an interview with Robert Louis Stevenson, with outdated advice and opinions frozen in the antiquated mindset.

This review can also be found on Goodreads.


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