Saturday, January 26, 2008

I stand (somewhat) corrected....

Having girded my loins and grit my teeth to continue reading THE ART OF FICTION by John Gardner (based on the preface, the man was a literary snob of the highest order), I discover his views of "worthy" literature may be a little more complicated, to whit:

"...drugstore fiction can often have more to offer than fiction thought to be of a higher class."

At this point, he's talking about what a potential writer should read, and his point is that one should read widely. But alas, just when I'm ready to cut him some slack, he says, "To write fiction without regard for immediate interest, purposely choosing the most colorless characters possible, a plot calculated to drive away the poor slob interested in seeing something happen...."

I'm not sure whether Gardner is speaking for himself or others when he calls readers who want some action in their books "poor slobs," but given what he said in the preface (see previous blog posts) about "junk minds," I tend to think he does consider "drugstore" fiction as much less worthy.

Does this mean I hurled the book across the room and that was that? No, because despite the cringe-inducing bits, I've already gotten something out of it, and so I intend to finish it.

I've said elsewhere that description is not exactly my favorite aspect of writing. I know description is important; that it creates the world of the story. But I've never thought about it this way:

"The reader is regularly presented with proofs -- in the form of closely observed details -- that what is said to be happening is really happening."

Description isn't just a place plunked on the page, static as a block of stone; it helps actively involve the reader in that world.

And suddenly, description doesn't seem like so much of a necessary chore, but an exciting element that actively engages the reader.

Does this mean I'm going to go and add huge chunks of description to my books? No. I'd still much rather write dialogue. But it does mean that my attitude toward writing description is not what it was yesterday.

4 comments:

Maggie said...

From a reader's POV, I must tell you that I've always appreciated your amount of dialogue that brings characters together rather than a twisty plot with dry characters. I've read books with tons of interesting plot, with so much description it becomes annoying, I always find myself coming back to your books that have the characters actually interacting with each other. Lots of other authors skim over the personal parts the characters share, which I think robs me of the real story; I want to know how they connect, how they really fell in love. Don't just tell me that they fell in love after spending a few months in the same house together, but PROVE it through dialogue and thought that these two are perfect for each other. Don't tell me what they're feeling through description, but show me through dialogue.

There's my two cents. :)

Kimber Chin said...

I had to laugh about his junk minds rant.

In new product development, I was told that I have the food and beverage tastes of a five year old (I still like Kool-Aid).

Now it turns out that I have the literary tastes of one. Awesome. At least I'm consistent. LOL

Margaret Moore said...

Thanks, Maggie! I do my best, so it's nice to hear it's working.

And Kimber, my motto is "Maturity -- it's for others!"

I should note, though, that I do my responsibilities and writing seriously. But not myself. :-)

Margaret Moore said...
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