Monday, October 05, 2009

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writers Life

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life by Michael Greenberg

This autobiographical book from Greenberg provides entertaining and insightful vignettes from his life as a writer and the lives of those he interacts with. The book is composed of bite sized four page essays which are each enjoyable in themselves. This format allows the reader to proceed through the book in short five minute intervals if desired. At the same time, each section is well written enough to cause the reader to press on to the next story since "it will only take a few minutes" and after reading in this manner, one invests an hour into the book, never intending to have read for so long.

Greenberg is a skilled writer and clearly well read without giving an ostentatious air. Each essay reads like an article from a literary magazine or something along the lines of a New Yorker essay. Unless you possess an extensive vocabulary, you may want to keep a dictionary close at hand. In some essays there were a few words that I needed to look up to determine the precise definition. However, this is not overly cumbersome and helps to enrich one's vocabulary.

A theme which is present throughout but not so much that it dominates the essays is his Jewish heritage. It was interesting to learn his perspective on how his heritage has influenced his family life, identification with immigrants, career, and reflections on the world. Throughout the book, we meet interesting characters from his life and get a feel for being a writer living in New York.

If nothing else, his book is a good lesson for those considering a career in writing. Greenberg seems to constantly observe the world and people around him, taking notes to include in stories and articles. This provides a rich stock of material to draw from as a writer. Some interesting stories he shares come from various side jobs he held such as being a waiter, taxi cab driver, and cosmetics salesman. It's apparent that writing as a profession can be done financially but those aspiring to be the next great novelist, would do well to read Greenberg's account and the sometimes difficulty of procuring gainful employment despite being a skilled writer.

I enjoyed the majority of the essays and recommend the book for those interested in hearing from a professional observer of the world and his life in the writing profession.

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