Thursday, April 07, 2005


I've been reading John Gardner's book on writing fiction. It's tailored the for the young writer, and I was heartened to read that the worst possible writer to emulate is James Joyce, because the one thing I tried in his type of form (post Dubliners, when he was inextricably connected to the goings on of his stories) it turned out to be utter batshit. We'll just leave it at my having written words like "soundness." I was also disheartened to be yet again reminded of the incredible amount of dedication and work it takes to be a writer. This has an upside, as I think obsessively, and I think obsessively about writing. The downside is I also think obsessively of my ego, and it appreciates the spotlight. Also, Gardner warns against being too mannered in one's writing. Mannered can be in the form of the frigid isolation of Hemingway or the grand flourishes of Faulkner. The two never were boring, though. I can't imagine how New Yorker shit-fiction could be summarized, mannered or not, but I just find it boring.
Without revealing too many details as to why I'm so concerned (all two of you who read this), I will say that I am tired of reading how the "light bounced off the mirror in all directions" and how his resolve "was as a horse" and all of that bullshit. I want a narrator who is present, who is filtering information, and whom you falsley trust. I want a narrator who has a systematic knowledge that rivals a history book but who also expects the same of the reader; in short, a man who is embellishing and joking, all with a wink to the audience that you'll let him get away with it. That's what all history-writing is, anyway, right?
So I finished reading Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison last week, having finished Ulysses a week before. This was not so much an impressive feat, as I started reading Ulysses back in June, and doggedly went off and on until late March. I would need to finish Juneteenth a second time before I can offer any insights. If there's something I can't stand it's people my age having read an important piece of work and offering their pop psycho-analytic reading into it. The analysis is always self-serving and the result is often something you can't refute because you don't know how much bullshit this person added to bolster their bullshit theory. Next up is Heart of Darkness. Easy, you say? Only about a hundred pages? Nonsense. There's never been so lazy a scholar as I am, and you may have caught this with my somewhat transparent attack in the preceding paragraph on others who actually attempt to put their scholasticism to work.


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