Thursday, December 11, 2014

I probably don't write "literary fiction," part II

I never really loved writers who are virtuosos, whose art and language literally ARE the story.  I don't particularly love Joyce or Faulkner. Or Henry James. Or Nabokov. I feel like I love some writers that are great writers: Melville, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Marquez, Borges, and Vonnegut probably top my list. All of these had virtuoso moments, especially Shakespeare, I suppose. But only Marquez really wrote stories that you couldn't do a reasonable job of summarizing in words other than those used in the original. You'd get something far more banal, of course, if you summarized Ahab getting oaths out of the crew or Hamlet's soliloquy in other words than the original, but you'd at least have the right idea. You can't say that of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Ulysses. 

This is almost a litmus test for me of what I want to read. Saying I don't love art for art's sake isn't really true and isn't the whole idea. I love Monty Python for loving silliness for its own sake, why shouldn't I love something beautiful that is beautiful just to be beautiful? But I do prefer it when I have a feeling that somebody was compelled to write a story because of something she cared about, something she discovered she had to incarnate in characters to get out, rather than feeling someone just started with something that began on the page and grew from there.

I don't really love writing. I love things in the world, and writing is a tool I have tried to use to get others to love them, too. I realize that this doesn't make anything I write worth reading. Earnestness and sincerity, as Harold Bloom told us, are the sole constants among all bad poets. I could write a story that said "Humans are very precious and dear, even those who don't seem like it, like this person Bob who everyone hated but really had so much to give." It wouldn't be good. It hurt just to write.

I'm not sure I have the mindset and discipline to write something that is good enough. I think I'm a good reader, and that made me want to be a good writer, but maybe what I should really do is be inspired by what I read to do something.

By my count, I have eight more outstanding stories waiting for a yes or a no. One more yes, and I'll keep trying. 0 for 8 and I'm done. I'm just trying to work out here for myself why I really should just let it go if and when that last rejection comes. 

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