In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing

In the Margins collects four thought-provoking and sincere essays on writing from critically acclaimed and bestselling author Elena Ferrante (The Story of the Lost Child). Detailing the path she followed to become a novelist, Ferrante digs into the politics of gendered writing to consider the particular challenges faced by women who write, as well as the general challenge of how one writes. She chronicles the puzzles that led her to write each of her books, with a focus on the Neapolitan novels. Ferrante also offers fresh and pragmatic analyses of literary greats--Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, María Guerra--while describing how she approaches writing.

Ferrante is keenly aware in these essays of the challenge of articulating the project of "writing" to others. Rather than offering a how-to guide, she describes her process with all the lyrical yet clarifying prose of her fiction. For example, in describing the usefulness of genre structures, she explains that by evoking the constraints of particular genres, "really I am waiting for my brain to get distracted, to slip up, for other I's--many--outside the margins to join together, take my hand, begin to pull me with the writing where I'm afraid to go." Such an approach lauds the concept of creativity under constraint, something she sees as a distinct issue for women. While each essay in the collection engages its own topic, all four cohere along this thematic through-line, offering critical insight into the question of how one can "learn to use with freedom the cage we're shut up in." --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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