A Manner of Being

Writers on Their Mentors
Writers recall those who showed them the way


What do the punk singer Henry Rollins, the Guatemalan writer Rodrigo Rey Rosa, the American authors Tobias Wolff, Tayari Jones, and George Saunders, the Canadian writer Sheila Heti, and the Russian poet Polina Barskova have in common? At some point they all studied the art of writing deeply with someone.

The nearly seventy short essays in A Manner of Being, by some of the best contemporary writers from around the world, pay homage to mentors—the writers, teachers, nannies, and sages—who enlighten, push, encourage, and sometimes hurt, fail, and limit their protégés. There are mentors encountered in the schoolhouse and on farms, in NYC and in MFA programs; mentors who show up exactly when needed, offering comfort, a steadying hand, a commiseration, a dose of tough love. This collection is rich with anecdotes from the heartfelt to the salacious, gems of writing advice, and guidance for how to live the writing life in a world that all too often doesn’t care whether you write or not.

Each contribution is intimate and distinct—yet a common theme is that mentors model a manner of being.

Selections include:

Arthur Flowers on John O’Killens
James Franco on Harmony Korine
Mary Gaitskill on an Ann Arbor bookstore owner
Noy Holland and Sam Lipsyte on Gordon Lish
Tayari Jones on Ron Carlson
Henry Rollins on Hubert Selby Jr.
Rodrigo Rey Rosa on Paul Bowles
George Saunders on Douglas Unger and Tobias Wolff
Christine Schutt on Elizabeth Hardwick
Tobias Wolff on John L’Heureux
. . . and many more

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