Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Roddy Doyle: A life in writing, an Interview by Sarah Crown

Here is a excerpt from an interview with Roddy Doyle given by The Guardian. The interview details an in-depth portrayal of the life of his novel, Paula Spencer. This shows a fearless writer at the top of his game as he struggled to create a character far from himself, yet he created a character who needed to emerge. This character is also perhaps his greatest achievement.

“. . . the most difficult thing he’d ever attempted. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors took the character of Paula Spencer – alcoholic, careening, desperate but still stubbornly clinging to her life – and produced a bleak, brave book that is widely held to be his finest creation. “Writing an alcoholic woman was hard,” he says. “Biology and circumstances put me a long way from her. It was a very slow piece of work at first. It took me a long time to get the register. Then in the second year, it began to click. Chapter 25, the longest one, the emotional heart of the book – it took just two days to write; it flowed out of me. By that point, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

“In chapter 25, Paula recalls the first time Charlo hit her, when she was pregnant with their first child. “I fell,” Paula says, “He felled me. I’m looking at it now. Twenty years later. I wouldn’t do what he wanted, he was in his moods, I was being smart, he hated me being pregnant, I wasn’t his little Paula anymore – and he drew his fist back and he hit me. He hit me. Before he knew it? He drew his own fist back, not me. He aimed at me. He let go. He hit me. He wanted to hurt me. And he did. And he did more than that.” The stiff, fractured sentences and hammering repetitions convey the brutality of Paula’s marriage, and the mental excisions she has had to perform to survive it. “It is the triumph of the novel,” Mary Gordon wrote in the New York Times Book Review, “that Mr Doyle – entirely without condescension – shows the inner life of this battered housecleaner to be the same stuff as that of the heroes of the great novels of Europe.”

—Roddy Doyle: A life in writing, by Sarah Crown.

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May 26, 2011

If you don’t have the guts to finish a novel, is there another way?

For $12,000 you can get Geoff Dyer to show you how to finish a manuscript. You’ll have to jet to the UK and sit in a classroom for nine months. If all you ended up with was a meandering text-vacation through a Dyer-like brain, was it worth it? For my money nothing exceeds the process of putting ass to chair, pen to paper, and heart to mind. Of course, it won’t get you an advanced diploma in creative writing from UEA, The University of East Anglia, but I don’t remember Scott Fitzgerald needing one to explore his ambition or Willa Cather to explore her American frontiers. The next novel I read had better be something unlike anything I’ve read before. Anything like anything is a waste of time to me. I don’t even like to read fine writers who tend to repeat themselves too much. Someone once said a writer has one basic story to tell. This may emerge through many novels, but still a good writer will make each one new. Whether it’s a muse or a certain gut-feeling that propels the writer, I want, as the reader, to be able to touch that spirit in some way as I read. There should be music between those lines—can you find that in classroom?

May 21, 2011

Against Any Theory of Literary Theories

Coming to any conclusion regarding the value of any particular literary work or group of literary works against any other standard, whether it be an educational, political, or economic one, is simplistic and ludicrous. It’s as intelligent as rating the quality of paintings by the total number of brush strokes.

Let’s see, that’s Rembrandt with 11,534 strokes versus Jackson Pollock with 0. Or to make a literary comparison: it’s Tolstoy with 450,000 words versus Emily Dickinson with 3,250. Now, how fun is that? But if you want to keep warm during a Boston winter while avoiding news of American deaths in Afghanistan, read War and Peace and feel smug against the comparison with Moscow and Napoleon. If you want your brain to toy with the many times your feelings have reacted to a snake in the grass, read Dickinson’s poem about it. The joy Tolstoy and Dickinson had it creating those writings is there for all to read again and again. There is no way to create a definite product from that, but readers do keep coming back to it.

Ultimately, art cannot be put into any box besides its own creation. It is profoundly anti-establishment, anti-ideological and of course, anti-narrow-minded. Marjorie Garber says: “Literature is a process rather than a product, and if it progresses, it does so in a way that often involves doubling back upon a track or meandering by the wayside rather than forging ahead, relentlessly and single-mindedly, toward some imagined goal or solution.”

May 9, 2011

How to Write the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I have to agree with Jennifer Egan about how spending too much energy on a project in any one day can affect the rhythm of the prose. I’ve found it can, too, but a good nap can start you up all over again. But then I don’t have two children to raise—I’m so lucky for that.

She, the writer of “A Visit From The Goon Squad,” attempts to hand-write five to seven pages a day. Some days she writes that much in an hour or two, sometimes it takes as much as four. She usually spends the extra time avoiding getting those pages written. She refuses to write more than that total because she finds it drains her energy too much and that badly affects its rhythm.

May 9, 2011

A Few Words about Good Writing

The spoken and unspoken seconds of speech make writing real. Its reasoning and its opinions and its judgments make good writing come alive: it’s intimately personal to the reader that way. It’s the sarcasm and wit and sparring and opposite emotion between speakers which displays the most precise and appropriate words. Each dialogue or monologue must be one that’s awesome to read and awful to end, so that whatever follows pales in contrast for some time: “I remember every word he said, so I forget everything I’ve heard since we spoke.” Write speech that is as vivid as live action.

May 5, 2011

Progress is progress every day

I’m happy to say that all is going well with my new novel, Tesora. Hopefully, I will complete its rough draft by August 1st at 1:00 p.m. This will be my third novel in as many years. I love that feeling of confidence knowing I can succeed every day by making progress on it. My ultimate plan is to finish another forty before I’m done although by then, I’m sure the number of planned novels will be eighty. I can’t stop coming up with new ideas: one problem is deciding which one. The main goal is really to excel and improve with each new day of writing—it’s not a goal of perfection so much as the goal of opening up to the world in my imagination and trying to join a wider world full of imagination. Thanks, readers.

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