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The Art of Disobedience

The Art of Disobedience: Essays on Form, Fiction, and Influence. | 21.95 | ISBN 9781948509145 | Essays On Writing | Available NOW

The best art is always disobedient. The creative works that move us, compel us, provoke us, haunt us, and transform us—the works that matter most to us and that we cherish—break the rules in significant ways. Certainly, characters act out, act up, transgress, and misbehave. But the writer must also surprise, subvert, deconstruct, and engage in serious mischief in terms of genre, form, or sensibility, in order to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. How do boundary genres—such as sudden fiction and short story cycles—allow both reader and writer to move in liminal emotional and narrative spaces? Are all stories really, at heart, secrecy plots, with intricate patterns of revelation, reckoning, and recalibration? And what does it mean to be ecstatically engaged with and even haunted by artistic influences? In these essays, award-winning fiction writer K. L. Cook draws upon decades of writing and teaching to explore significant issues of aesthetics, craft, form, process, influence, and what it means to spend a life in letters.

“K. L. Cook’s The Art of Disobedience is a master class on fiction writing. To read this dynamic collection is to see into the mind (and wonderfully, the heart) of one of our most perceptive and impassioned contemporary writers. More than simply a treatise on creative writing, these essays chronicle Cook’s own journey, a story as compelling as any of the famous works he discusses. By the end, what he leaves us with is an unexpected treasure: an understanding of what is essential in life, as well as in literature. What greater gift can a writer hope to give?”
—Rachel M. Harper, author of Brass Ankle Blues and This Side of Providence

“Mischievously shape-shifting from critical analysis to literary memoir to writing instruction and back again, The Art of Disobedience is brimming with provocative insights and practical advice for writers at every level of development. At turns playful and profound, Cook’s essays on writing and the writer’s life achieve that rarity among writing guides in being able to delight and amuse as they inform and inspire. Generous, honest, and rigorous in spirit, an indispensable book for anyone who writes, wants to write, or teaches writing.”
—John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner and The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

“The Art of Disobedience is an energetic book focused on form and influence in fiction, but it touches down in so many other books that we experience the bountiful feast of Cook’s reading life. We get to see his critical engagement with the forms of fiction, his thinking about how books work, and how and why it matters that we read fiction.”
—Elaine Neil Orr, author of Swimming Between Worlds and A Different Sun

“Wonderfully clear, accessible, and edifying, K. L. Cook’s essays provide both a primer and graduate seminar on the art of writing and reading. With warmth and erudition, he engages us in conversations on craft from point of view to narrative structure, offers road maps for critiquing, and shows how the simplest tale, well-told, is an aesthetic marvel. Cook’s passion for his subject, as in his superb personal essay, ‘My Hamlet,’ moves us and inspires.”
—Roy Hoffman, author of Alabama Afternoons and Come Landfall

K. L. Cook is the author of four books of fiction: Last Call, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize; The Girl from Charnelle, winner of the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction; Love Songs for the Quarantined, winner of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction; and Marrying Kind, a new collection of linked stories. Lost Soliloquies, a collection of poetry, was also recently published. His work has appeared widely in anthologies, literary journals, and magazines, including Best American Mystery Stories, Best of the West, Glimmer Train Stories, American Short Fiction, One Story, Harvard Review, Threepenny Review, Writer’s Chronicle, and Poets & Writers.

K.L. Cook at this year’s AWP:

Beyond How-To: The Art of the Craft Essay” (Fri March 6, 1:45-3:00, Event F239)