A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic
Peter Turchi (Author)
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DescriptionWith his characteristic talent for finding the connections between writing and the stuff of our lives (most notably in his earlier hit Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer), Peter Turchi ventures into new, and even more surprising, territory. In A Muse and a Maze, Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle-making and its flip side, puzzle-solving. He teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling. And he uncovers the magic--the creation of credible illusion--that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. In Turchi's associative narrative, we learn about the history of puzzles, their obsessive quality, and that Benjamin Franklin was a devotee of an ancient precursor of sudoku called Magic Squares. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process. With the goal of giving writers new ways to think about their work and readers new ways to consider the books they encounter, A Muse and a Maze suggests ways in which every piece of writing is a kind of puzzle. The work argues that literary writing is defined, at least in part, by its embrace of mystery; offers tangrams as a model for the presentation of complex characters; compares a writer's relationship to his or her narrator to magicians and wizards; offers the maze and the labyrinth as alternatives to the more common notion of the narrative line; and concludes with a discussion of how readers and writers, like puzzle solvers, not only tolerate but find pleasure in difficulty. While always balancing erudition with accessibility, Turchi examines the work of writers as various as A. A. Milne, Dashiell Hammett, Truman Capote, Anton Chekhov, Alison Bechdel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Antonya Nelson, Vladimir Nabokov, Charles D'Ambrosio, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, Thomas Bernhard, and Mark Twain, elaborating and illuminating ways in which their works expand and deliver on the title's double entendre, A Muse and a Maze. With 100 images that range from movie stills from Citizen Kane and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to examples of sudokus, crosswords, and other puzzles; from Norman Rockwell's famous triple self-portrait to artwork by Charles Richie; and from historical arcana to today's latest magic, A Muse and a Maze offers prose exposition, images, text quotations, and every available form of wisdom, leading the reader step-by-step through passages from stories and novels to demonstrate, with remarkable clarity, how writers evolve their eventual creations.
Trinity University Press
October 06, 2015
6.4 X 0.8 X 8.1 inches | 1.15 pounds
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About the Author
Peter Turchi has written and coedited several books on writing fiction, including Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic, A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft and (Don't) Stop Me if You've Heard This Before and Other Essays on Writing Fiction. His stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Story, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and the Colorado Review, among other journals. He has received numerous accolades, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Houston.
"Turchi invites us to think about books as mysteries unfolding in time, giving us clues that we piece together." -- Washington Post "One of the country's foremost thinkers on the art of writing....Turchi argues that writers are like magicians who aim to lead us to a state of wonder." -- Houston Chronicle "Altogether stimulating." -- Brain Pickings "Consistently engaging, lively, and thought provoking. The interactive element is also a delight, as there are actual puzzles scattered throughout (answers are provided in the back) to demonstrate the challenges and rewards offered by puzzles--and by good writing....Readers and puzzle lovers should find much of value." -- Publishers Weekly "My favorite book about literature. . . . Anyone who likes books should read it." -- Chris Offutt, author of No Heroes "A brilliant book on writing craft, providing the reader with a new way to think about composing fiction. It's also simply a delight to read-smart, well organized, and full of muscular writing and funny anecdotes." -- Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown "The wide-ranging connections Turchi draws are convincing, provocative, and not infrequently funny, drawing the reader into a labyrinth of reflection where each turn brings a new surprise." -- Santa Fe New Mexican "He's done it again. Peter Turchi, the best-selling author who inspires artists, designers, and anyone trying to understand how to capture an audience's imagination through storytelling, has written a book that aligns the art of literature with puzzle creation and illusions." -- World Literature Today "Turchi combines puzzles and discussions of magic tricks as well as conventional literary analysis to show how arranging information to deepen the sense of mystery can make writing more interesting." -- Chicago Reader "A glorious craft book--absolutely delightful." -- Julia Larios "Full of lush illustrations, embedded puzzles, and notes on Harry Houdini, Alison Bechdel, tangrams, labyrinths, and sudoku."-- Fiction Advocate "To leave readers slightly bewildered, to leave them with some questions answered but also with the understanding that other questions are unanswerable, to challenge readers to be satisfied with uncertainty - that's exactly what Turchi encourages in this book."-- Numéro Cinq "But as much as A Muse & a Maze seeks to explore the inner workings of the craft of writing, the book isn't interested in pulling aside the curtain on the art form's intrinsic wondrousness. If anything, Turchi's collection of citations, motivations, riddles and games yields as many questions as it answers."-- Mountain Xpress "Informed and informative....thoughtful and thought provoking."-- Midwest Book Review "Turchi combines puzzles and discussions of magic tricks as well as conventional literary analysis to show how arranging information to deepen the sense of mystery can make writing more interesting."-- Chicago Reader "The tension between these concepts--puzzle and mystery--forms the center of Turchi's learned, funny, and uncategorizable book, part writing guide, part literary criticism, and part playful compendium of tricks, games, and problems."-- Colorado Review "In A Muse and a Maze, Peter Turchi skillfully draws the reader through some of the most fundamental and challenging questions that writers face, tricking us into learning more about ourselves and our writing process by making us think we are learning about something unrelated to writing: games and puzzles. But herein lies the brilliance of his approach--we drop our writerly defenses and open ourselves to receiving information via a new angle, and before we know it, revelations about writing and process become apparent."-- Brooklyn Rail "A Muse and A Maze offers sharp insights into the craft of writing, illuminating the process of puzzle-making and mystery-building that makes reading novels so absorbing and rewarding. "-- West and Grand