The Questions That Matter Most: Reading, Writing, and the Exercise of Freedom (Hardcover)
One of California's leading writers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, presents her first nonfiction volume on writing since 2005's best-selling Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.
"Smiley gives educators, readers, and writers much to discuss. Highly recommended." --Library Journal, starred review
"Line for line, Smiley delivers such clear, vibrant, precise prose--handed forth as calmly and equitably as an ice cream cone, even when she's incensed--that a reader feels smarter just taking it in." --The Boston Globe
Long acclaimed as one of America's preeminent novelists, Jane Smiley is also an unparalleled observer of the craft of writing. In The Questions That Matter Most this Pulitzer Prize-winning writer offers steady and penetrating essays on some of the aesthetic and cultural issues that mark any serious engagement with reading and writing. Beginning with a personal introduction tracing Smiley's migration from Iowa to California, the author reflects on her findings in the varied literature of the Golden State, whose writers have for decades litigated the West's contested legacies of racism, class conflict, and sexual politics through their pens.
As she considers the ambiguity of character and the weight of history, her essays provide new entry points into literature, and we lucky readers can see how Smiley draws inspiration from across the literary spectrum to invigorate her own writing. With enthusiasm and meticulous attention, Smiley dives beneath surface-level interpretations to examine the works of Marguerite de Navarre, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Franz Kafka, Halld r Laxness, and Jessica Mitford. Throughout, Smiley seeks to think harder and, in her words, with "more clarity and nuance" about the questions that matter most.
About the Author
Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her novel Some Luck was long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award. She has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper's, and The Nation. Her most recent novel, A Dangerous Business, was published in 2022. She lives in Carmel Valley, California.