Every Day I Write the Book

Notes on Style

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 24 illustrations Published: March 2020

Author: Amitava Kumar

General Interest, Literature and Literary Studies > Creative Nonfiction, Literary Criticism

Amitava Kumar's Every Day I Write the Book is for academic writers what Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and Stephen King's On Writing are for creative writers. Alongside Kumar's interviews with an array of scholars whose distinct writing offers inspiring examples for students and academics alike, the book's pages are full of practical advice about everything from how to write criticism to making use of a kitchen timer. Communication, engagement, honesty: these are the aims and sources of good writing. Storytelling, attention to organization, solid work habits: these are its tools. Kumar's own voice is present in his essays about the writing process and in his perceptive and witty observations on the academic world. A writing manual as well as a manifesto, Every Day I Write the Book will interest and guide aspiring writers everywhere.


Every Day I Write the Book is a persuasive instance of the sort of rare nonfiction performance Amitava Kumar invokes within its pages; he at once defines and exemplifies a vital modern nonfiction tradition. Full of pragmatic analyses and recommendations, this enthralling, important book will prove to be compelling and useful across many audiences.” — Robert Polito

“Amitava Kumar's Every Day I Write the Book compels a cluster of adjectives—eclectic, ruminative, associative, probing, and personal—all of which, taken together, only begin to describe this unique writing sensibility. Turning the pages we find ourselves riding shotgun through the reading and writing life of a true cosmopolitan intellectual. Kumar instructs and inspires, running on all cylinders.” — Sven Birkerts

"A guide for academic writers that is also relevant to anyone who cares about fine prose. . . . An engaging, perceptive companion for all writers." — Kirkus Reviews

"An inventive essay collection . . . a celebration of 'the value, the ease, and also the excitement of crafting writing that hasn’t been produced to please a committee.' Grad students and tenure seekers will appreciate the support Kumar’s insightful and intellectually nimble book offers, even as they buckle down to the task at hand—satisfying that committee of readers."  — Publishers Weekly

"Too often lively writing is taken as a sign of dilettantism. Things don’t have to be this way, and Kumar, who is himself both a critic and a novelist, insists that scholarship should argue and inform but also surprise and delight. . . . The best way to argue that academic books can be formally inventive is to write a formally inventive academic book. That’s what Kumar does here." — Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

"Kumar’s writing guide/commonplace book is a salve. Reading his newest is like having office hours—no, better; a drink and bookish conversation, in a bar—with your smartest, kindest teacher, or friend." — John Francisconi, Grandlife


Availability: In stock
Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amitava Kumar is Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College and the author of numerous books, including Lunch with a Bigot; A Matter of Rats; and Nobody Does the Right Thing, all also published by Duke University Press; and most recently, Immigrant, Montana: A Novel.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. The 90-Day Book  1
Part I. Self-Help
Misery  5
Good Sentences  6
Read No Secondary Literature  7
Read Junk  9
Failure  10
Running  12
Sleep  15
Kitchen Timer  16
Self-Help  17
Part II. Writing a Book: A Brief History
Rules of Writing  23
In Memory of  24
Out of Place  26
Eyes on the Ground  28
The End of the Line  30
Creative Criticism  31
How to Throw Your Body  36
I'm Feeling Myself  38
Creative Writing  39
Part III. Credos
Declarations of Independence  47
In Praise of Nonfiction  54
There Is No Single Way   56
How Proust Can Ruin Your Life  57
Reality Hunger  58
Depend on Your Dumbness  60
Blackness (Unmitigated)  62
Rage on the Page  63
On Training  68
Part IV. Form
Light Years  71
Neither/Nor  72
Criticism by Other Means  75
Paranoid Theory  77
Erotic Style  80
I Blame the Topic Sentence  82
The Sound of the Fury  83
In Defense of the Fragment  86
Kids  88 
Part V. Academic Interest
Diana Studies 91
Examined Life  95
Occupy Writing  96
Academic Sentence  98
Dissertation Blah  100
Your Job Is to Know a Lot  102
Terminology  103
Anti-Anti Jargon  104
Monograph  107
Part VI. Style
But Life  111
Sugared Violets  112
Voice  113
Wikileaks Manual of Style  117
Detecting Style  118
Strunk and White  120
A Clean English Sentence  122
Trade  126
Recommendation Letter  128
Part VII. Exercises
Bad Writing  137
Prompt  139
Post-Its  141
Revising  142
Editing  144
Performing It  146
Rituals  149
For Graduate Students  152
Not Writing   161
Part VIII. The Groves of Academe
Academe  165
Stoner  167
Common Sense  169
Titles  170
Campus Criticism  172
Farther Away  176
Accountability  177
Tenure Files  179
Journals  182
Part IX. Materials
Photographs, etc.  187
"Who's Got the Address?" (a Collaboration with Teju Cole)  190
Acknowledgments  197
Appendix A. Ten Rules of Writing  201
Appendix B. PEN Ten Interview  207
Notes  211
Index  231
Sales/Territorial Rights: World excluding South Asia

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