Making an Elephant: Writing from Within (Paperback)

Writing from Within

By Graham Swift

Vintage Books USA, 9780307455758, 401pp.

Publication Date: May 4, 2010



In his first-ever work of nonfiction, Graham Swift Booker Prize-winning author of Waterland and Last Orders gives us a highly personal book: a singular and open-spirited account of a writer's life.
Here Kazuo Ishiguro advises on how to choose a guitar; Salman Rushdie arrives for Christmas under guard; Caryl Phillips shares a beer with the author at a nightclub in Toronto. There are private moments with Swift's father and with his own younger self, as well as musings on history, memory, and imagination that illuminate his work. As generous in its scope as it is acute in its observations, Making an Elephant brings together a richly varied selection of essays, portraits, poetry and interviews, full of insights into Swift's passions and motivations, and wise about the friends, family and other writers who have mattered to him over the years.

About the Author

Graham Swift lives in London and is the author of eight novels: The Sweet-Shop Owner; Shuttlecock, which received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Waterland, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize and won The Guardian Fiction Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour; Out of This World; Ever After, which won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger; Last Orders, which was awarded the Booker Prize; The Light of Day; and, most recently, Tomorrow. He is also the author of Learning to Swim, a collection of short stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages."

Praise For Making an Elephant: Writing from Within

“A sincere and affable appreciation of a life in letters. . . . An illuminating companion to Swift’s career. . . . Shin[es] soft lights on his background, his influences, his travels, his friends and his aesthetic concerns.”
Los Angeles Times
“Pure indulgence—like hearing a favorite uncle tell tales of his marvelous youth.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“A rewarding collection, with the same humanity and flair for detail that distinguishes Swift’s fiction.”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Achingly beautiful. . . . When Swift is on, he’s really on, intelligent, evocative and thought-provoking.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Swift’s essays display the same quiet intensity as his fiction, a capacity for subtle storytelling with dark emotional undercurrents.”
Financial Times
“Engrossing. . . . Evocative. . . . Affecting. . . . One of his most finely rendered essays is a tribute to the publisher Alan Ross.”
New York Times Book Review
“Graham Swift distills emotion and incident into a hypnotic elixir. He is simply one of the most sure-handed, savvy and remarkable writers now at work.”
The Washington Post Book World
“Swift is surely one of England’s finest living novelists.”
—John Banville, The New York Review of Books
“Beautifully crafted. . . . Marvellously evocative. . . . Touching. . . . In Making an Elephant, Swift rewardingly places himself at the centre of a book.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“Valuable. . . . You come away from these pieces feeling that [Swift] is a very good person to have as a friend: fond, understanding, fun, but above all discreet, a man you can trust.”
The Washington Times
“Swift is at his most movingly revelatory when discussing his work.”
Sunday Telegraph (London)
“A pleasure to read, from first word to last, Making an Elephant is sure to move writers and readers alike to join the legions of Graham Swift fans. . . . This veritable curio cabinet of detailed reminiscences makes for an extraordinary autobiographical look into the literary and otherwise ordinary life of an accomplished, though wryly self-deprecating novelist.”
“Revealing, self-deprecating, full of fascinating details.”
The Observer (London)
“Swift brings his sharp eye, impeccable prose, and insouciance to his first nonfiction book. . . . Out from behind the scrim of fiction, Swift is highly entertaining, at once welcoming and teasing, clever and probing.”
“Inspired and refreshing. . . . A polished, sophisticated collection of essays highlighting the relationship between writing, identity, and history. . . . It provides a window into the life, times, and friendships of one of England’s premier contemporary writers. To read this collection is to uncover a multi-dimensional, at times mesmerizing, man of letters. . . . Cause for celebration.”
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