Book Review: Light the Dark

Light the Dark: 

Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process

Edited by Joe Fassler

Book Review by Morgan Wright (@byMorganWright on Twitter)

***** 5 stars, highly recommended read

Of all other books on writing I have ever read, this one goes unsurpassed.

light the dark cover

In Light the Dark, 46 critically-acclaimed writers have joined together to create a masterpiece that is truly one of its kind. In an anthology of brief essays, each of these writers center their pieces around quotes and passages that have influenced both their writing and themselves, offering a spellbinding range of perspectives that dive deep into the authors’ lives, exposing vulnerabilities with an honesty that isn’t afraid to cut to the bone. But more than that, they show us how finding inspiration in the words of others has transformed them. They show us how through the power of literature and art a person’s whole life can be changed ‘in a paragraph, in a turn of a phrase, in a single well-used word’.

The first time I started reading Light the Dark, I couldn’t put it down, utterly absorbed in the way these authors discuss their artistic lives, commenting on what it means to be a writer as well as what makes for a good story, all the while exuding heart-felt appreciation for the writers and poets- even a musician as we encounter Miles Davis in Mark Haddon’s piece- that inspired them to write. And I believe it’s this appreciation combined with the emotion that oozes through every written word that makes this book so addictive and so tantalizing.

Some entries such as those of Stephen King and Khaled Hosseini had me hanging onto every word, and other entries like those of Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie and Karl Ove Knausgaard blew me away with their fascinating stories. I found myself identifying most with Lev Grossman’s piece (addressing C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Grossman saying it ‘was the first book that I was ever transported by. I think it’s the book that taught me what novels are supposed to do.’) as well as with the one by Jonathan Lethem (where Lethem reveals that reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial in his teenage years is what ‘made me a writer; it made me who I am.’). All these writers bring different experiences, different values and different opinions, and I think that’s the beauty of this book; no matter your own set of experiences, values and opinions, there will always be something that’ll spark your interest as well as your admiration.

Then once I finished reading, I felt compelled to go back and read it all over again just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. During this time, I found myself using arrow flags to mark quotes from the entries of Andre Dubus III, Neil Gaiman, Aimee Bender and many more so I can open the book at any given time when writer’s doubts start creeping in and sigh delightfully over them- sentimental, I’m aware, but true nevertheless. This book is just that good.

To conclude, Light the Dark is a treasure for any reader- writer or otherwise- and an absolute necessity for every author to have for when you just need that little bit of magic to get you going.

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