Why Writing Matters


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Nicholas Delbanco

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Drawing lessons from writers of all ages and writing across genres, a distinguished teacher and writer reveals the enduring importance of writing for our time

In this new contribution to Yale University Press’s Why X Matters series, a distinguished writer and scholar tackles central questions of the discipline of writing. Drawing on his own experience with such mentors as John Updike, John Gardner, and James Baldwin, and in turn having taught such rising stars as Jesmyn Ward, Delbanco looks in particular at questions of influence and the contradictory, simultaneous impulses toward imitation and originality. Part memoir, part literary history, and part analysis, this unique text will resonate with students, writers, writing teachers, and bibliophiles.

Nicholas Delbanco is the Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. He has published thirty previous books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Count of Concord, Spring and Fall, The Countess of Stanlein Restored, and The Lost Suitcase: Reflections on the Literary Life.

“Chatty, affable . . . [and] an eloquent endorsement of the writing class as nurturing and galvanizing community.”—Joe Moran, Times Literary Supplement

“Delbanco explores questions of influence and the creative impulses toward imitation and originality . . . [and] draws on his decades of teaching expe­rience to offer a kind of reading workshop, equal parts memoir, literary history, and scholarly analysis.”—Poets & Writers (suggested reading)

“The insights on workshop dynamics, the smart observations, the loving attention to words and voice, the wisdom acquired by many years of reading, writing, and teaching, make this a valuable, entertaining, and accessible study of writing.”—Robert Morgan, Cornell University


"The wisdom of a superb, experienced writer and inspired teacher are here distilled for our pleasure.  We have much to learn from Delbanco's maturity, broad perspective and erudition—not least his kindness and encouragement when all is said and done, his devotion to literature and to all those who struggle to achieve it."—Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell

"This book is a tribute to rigor, to close reading, to paying attention. Reading it is like participating in an exclusive workshop taught by a master of the craft."—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train

"Superb writer, erudite scholar, wise teacher—Delbanco makes the written word sing, and how. No reader of this book—itself an impassioned work of literature—will ever take writing for granted again.”—James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword

"Nicholas Delbanco has long been not only one of America’s finest writers but also teachers of the craft. And Why Writing Matters is his generous gift to us all—filled with wisdom, revelations, and, of course, exquisite writing. We might not have been able to attend his masterclass on the power of words, but thankfully we can cherish these pages, which prove it."—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon

"Watching Nicholas Delbanco's elegant, exquisitely learned mind at play on the page is the strongest argument possible for Why Writing Matters, a book both readers and veteran writers will enjoy and find edifying."—Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage

"An essential guide and a stalwart companion, this compact book contains a lifetime of thought about the value and meaning of writing."—Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever
ISBN: 9780300264821
Publication Date: March 22, 2022
296 pages, 5 x 7 3/4