A stellar host of writers explore the cornerstone of fiction writing: character
The Book of Other People is about character. Twenty-five or so outstanding writers have been asked by Zadie Smith to make up a fictional character. By any measure, creating character is at the heart of the fictional enterprise, and this book concentrates on writers who share a talent for making something recognizably human out of words (and, in the case of the graphic novelists, pictures). But the purpose of the book is variety: straight "realism"-if such a thing exists-is not the point. There are as many ways to create character as there are writers, and this anthology features a rich assortment of exceptional examples.
The writers featured in The Book of Other People include:
Aleksandar Hemon Nick Hornby Hari Kunzru Toby Litt David Mitchell George Saunders Colm Tóibín Chris Ware, and more
There is a peculiar pleasure in looking into an artist's notebook. Deciphering the many layers of moving parts that make a masterpiece can be somewhat mysterious, but in sketch one sees the bones. Thus, there is a pleasantly didactic quality in the 23 literary sketches presented in this anthology edited by Zadie Smith, who merely instructed other writers to "make someone up," then ordered the results alphabetically, by characters' first names. (Given that the funds generated are going to 826 New York, one of six children's writing centers originally founded by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, and now seemingly supported by every major writer in many major cities, the instructional value goes two ways.) The Book of Other People is about character (sometimes, as Smith points out in her introduction, writers chose to "deny the possibility of character.") In many cases -- among them, A. L. Kennedy's piece on a scorned husband and Z. Z. Packer's about a romance between a Pita Delicious employee and a grad student -- the stories are as rich as any in the authors' work. Others are a smart exercise in minimalism. Nick Hornby and Posy Simmonds, for example, manage to encapsulate a man's literary career in a story told entirely in faux book jacket bios and author photos. Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware provide a full-color strip each. Personality types are as specific as Hari Kunzru's portrait of the neighborhood crazy lady in her lime-green thong and as archetypal as Aleksandar Hemon's brief treatment of a man who closely resembles a certain biblical savior. Not everyone felt it necessary to equate "character" with "human": Toby Litt gives us a monster; George Saunders, a puppy. Taken together, the entire anthology provides an excellent master class in the raw materials from which fiction is made. --Amy Benfer