Deep down, writing isn’t all that different from the confidence game: It’s the art of using words to manipulate people’s thinking and emotions. For instance, through these squiggles on the page, I’m aiming to create certain impressions in your mind. By this point, you should be imagining me as genial and easygoing, a fellow reader rather than a pontificating critic, someone who clearly knows a lot about books but also a guy who doesn’t make a big deal of it. To induce this perception, every artless-seeming sentence here has been calculated, re-examined and endlessly tweaked. For example, the mention of Neil Gaiman hides an effort to gain media cred, however minuscule, with younger readers. Even this apparent digression with its minorly clever point — that writing is a kind of con game — serves as a breathing space, a slight pause before the rush of my final two paragraphs. A professional writer’s prose is never guileless or innocent.