Reading and Writing - 13 Ways of Looking at a novel (part 1)
It is 600 pages long. The first half consists of a series of essays, the second half of reviews of 100 novels. I don't think I'll read all of these - just the ones I happen to have read.
Already, from the introduction, I have gleaned some interesting insights. In her novels up to HORSE HEAVEN Jane Smiley did not begin her novels by thinking she had a good subject for a novel but by thinking she had discovered an important truth about the world. That, I think, is the point of a novel - to use a life to show a truth. Recently, however, I remember reading that not all writers think this necessary; but for me it is the whole point. The lead up to the discovery is the climax, and the revelation of the truth itself is the denouement. So it was in DAPHNE; each of the characters discovered something about themselves just before the end and so that ending was satisfying.
However Jane Smiley said that when writing HORSE HEAVEN this changed because she had a spiritual enlightenment which made her believe that 'the world itself and all physical manifestations are illusory' and what we see are useful for learning, but are, in reality, just bad dreams. This caused her to construct a new theory of creativity in which she didn't need to plan her work in advance but just let her ideas flow.
Not everyone liked HORSE HEAVEN because of its large canvass and so she began to write GOOD FAITH which was a 'smaller and more single-minded novel', but sixty pages after the half way mark she found herself floundering, not enjoying the process of writing and eventually she closed the file on her computer walked away.
It was then that she decided to read one hundred books.