Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The art of the novel.

Recently I read two very interesting articles, one in the Atlantic and one in The New Yorker, each of which had some stuff about the novel Here's a bit from the New Yorker piece, which you can find here (perhaps for a limited time? who knows?):

A notebook from the DeLillo archives
at the UTexas at Austin

In October, 1995, David Foster Wallace wrote to [Don DeLillo], “Because I tend both to think I’m uniquely afflicted and to idealize people I admire, I tend to imagine you never having had to struggle with any of this narcissism or indulgence stuff. . . . Maybe I want a pep-talk, because I have to tell you I don’t enjoy this war one bit.” DeLillo responded in November. “I was a semiconscious writer in the beginning,” he writes. “Just sat and wrote something, or read the newspaper, or went to the movies. Over time I began to understand, one, that I was lucky to be doing this work, and, two, that the only way I’d get better at it was to be more serious, to understand the rigors of novel-writing and to make it central to my life, not a variation on some related career choice, like sportswriting or playwriting. The novel is different. . . . We die indoors, and alone, and I don’t mean to sound overdramatic but you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, all of this happened over time, until eventually discipline no longer seemed something outside me that urged the reluctant body into the room. At this point discipline is inseparable from what I do. It’s not even definable as discipline. It has no name. I never think about it. But there’s no trick of meditation or self-mastery that brought it about. I got older, that’s all. I was not a born novelist (if anyone is). I had to grow into novelhood.”

There was another bit in this piece, in which it was revealed that a novelist, when he turned over his papers to the archives at the University of Texas at Austin (that's what the article's about), found a novel he had forgotten he had written. Contemplate that for a moment, if you will.

The Atlantic piece had to do with a very successful crime novelist, Harlan Coben. (I think I might pick up one of his novels to read while on vacation--I can enjoy certain varieties of genre fiction, and the crime novel is definitely one of those varieties. I'm also planning to pick up a copy of Falling Man for a similar purpose. I am looking forward to reading on my vacation.) Anyway, the article was fascinating in terms of his process, what motivated him to write, etc. At the end of the article, a bookstore owner was conducting a Q & A with him, and she asked him whether he'd prefer to have more time to complete his novels (he completes one a year). The bookstore owner recalls a conversation with Dennis Lehane, who, after having finished Mystic River, was offered the chance to renegotiate his contract with his publisher because they didn't want to lose him:

Lehane, she recalled, made no requests for bonus money or special marketing efforts, but asked for more time instead. 'He said, "What I really want is an extra year, because I'm nothappy rushing this book out without more time to think," [the bookstore owner] said. apparently.

"'No,' Coben said slowly. 'I've toured with Dennis, and we know each other well. But Dennis and I don't do the same thing. He's somebody who comes out with a book every two years or so.' He said he sees more time not so much as an opportunity to improve a book but as an excuse not to finish. 'My first book was due October 1, and by spectacular coincidence, I finished it on September 30,' he said."

You can find this article here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the excerpts. I've been meaning to read that New Yorker article. I think MB read it.
    And Falling Man. It's gotten some good and interesting reviews. I think he's one of the few novelists that continues to be relevant AND a good writer. (see Otterbutt)



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