Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reading and Writing - 13 Ways of Looking at a novel (part 1)

Having now finished DAPHNE by Justine Picardie (which I ended up finishing at about seven this morning - sleep being an annoying but necessary interruption to the reading process. It was my favourite sort of book - very well written, and packed with fascinating information. I shall write a review in a couple of days, as soon as my thoughts have settled a little), I have gone straight on with my quest to improve my writing by starting this great tome: 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE NOVEL by Jane Smiley.

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.


Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Sounds faskinating - forgive mis-spelling - it's just me playing around with the idea of the silent 'k' and sundries; like you, sleep is a bit of a dispensable item at the moment so I find my mind entertaining weird thoughts at 2.00 a.m. (The silent k is one example from last night's / this morning's.)
That will be a marvellous book to read ... enjoy!

Thu Apr 03, 06:35:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi CB - you've won a prize - I see there is an international version of Justine Picardie's DAPHNE and I'm going to send it off to you in celebration of BAFAB week. I am sure you're going to love it! Thank you for being such a loyal commenter.

Thu Apr 03, 09:41:00 pm  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Oh thank you Clare - you have such a generous heart! I am looking forward to receiving my prize - so unexpected, so pleasing and encouraging.
BTW it is always my pleasure to visit and read and comment.

Fri Apr 04, 10:38:00 am  

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