Thanksgiving Is Ruined
June 12, 2008
"Step away from the vehicle."
Update to this post.
Comes here now the fascinating advice & perspective of novelist Zadie Smith, from a March 2008 lecture discussed here and newly published here as "That Crafty Feeling":
It's awful the swing of the literary fraudulence pendulum: from moment to moment you can't decide whether you're the fraudulent idiot or your reader is the fraudulent idiot.
She provides an example of how the pendulum manifests itself at the outset of a project:
What's amusing about the first twenty pages . . . is how little confidence you have in your reader when you begin. You spoon-feed them everything. You can't let a character walk across the room without giving her backstory as she goes.
One wonders about how many aspects of the above-described, confusing phenomenon spring, for some, from writing to/for audience members who are anonymous, unknown (geniuses or fools?) and unseen.
Smith's other remarks in the lecture suggest that she gets through that stage largely by settling on a consistent "tonal frequency" or "perspective and voice" of the novel's narrator, which seems to become for her the unifying mainspring of the entire work, to establish narrative momentum and, one imagines, gives her a more concrete sense of her imagined relations with her posited addressee(s).
She too advises leaving the "completed" work aside and unread for months if not years, for re-review prior to publication. She encapsulates her recommendation in the five words that form the title of this post.
Finally, her lecture contains some wonderful extended description of the so-called "Magical Thinking" that overtakes her throughout the middle of a project.
You open the paper -- every single story in the paper is directly relevant to your novel.
The experience sounds like a close cousin of monomania, or hypomania -- two words that don't appear to have appeared previously in this blog -- perhaps surprisingly, given some of our our aesthetic and theoretical obsessions.