Friday, January 26, 2007
Seduce The Reader
I read an interview with one of my favorite writers, Jim Harrison, once in which he claimed to write Dalva (his best novel by my humble evaluation) because he wasn't in love and wanted to create a woman that would inspire that feeling. Mikhail Barishinikov once said that he always fell a little in love with all his partners (and most certainly he slept with all of them -- as a straight man in the world of ballet, I suspect he did not even have to half-ass try), and in a strange way, I love all my characters as well, even the bad ones, perhaps especially the bad ones. One of the questions that is constantly batted around writing workshops is -- Do your characters have to be sympathetic? I think so, but only to the writer. You cannot write effectively about people you hold in contempt, at least in fiction -- I think the constraints of the form have to offer us insight into their humanity. I don't feel this applies in nonfiction in the same way. But regardless of the form, the characters have to be engaging. We must feel as if someone could fall in love with them. From the first line of Dalva, I knew Jim H. had gotten it right -- "It was today -- rather yesterday I think -- that he told me it was important not to accept life as a brutal approximation. I said people don't talk like that in this neighborhood."
The kind of fiction I write is often coded as confessional -- I chalk this up to my early influences, all that Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton, poets that seems as if they have no skin, as if their words are a direct line to their hearts. That, of course, is artifice just as much as a Victorian novel is artifice. One of my former writing teachers was forever saying that you had to seduce the reader. I think this is because he loved the word seduce. But I have to agree that it is an excellent word -- seduction is both completely earnest and completely staged. You tap into the best part of yourself, the part that makes people love you, and you act your heart out. Is it real or is it Memorex? as the old commercial used to ask. Both, I say. That is, if it's working.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"We loved the earth, but could not stay." -- old saying
Drinking book suggestion: Duane's Depressed Larry McMurtry -- This is the final part of The Last Picture Show trilogy. If you're not drinking before you read, you most certainly will be after! This book is so so sad and brilliant and funny.
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday! Stay warm, fellow Detroiters!