Description is where the story is, and also where the postmodern complaint with the story is. It’s where the poetry of the writing is. Those writers of literary historical fiction over the past forty or fifty years who have become fed up with traditional, novelistic historical storytelling have often revived the Platonic quarrel with poetry, in questioning of the usefulness of that leap to fiction. Description, though, is what Flanagan revels in. He is a storyteller in the mythic sense, of lives determined by emotion, error, and turns of coincidence and fate.
Hemingway spoke a lot about that kind of daily struggle that every writer goes through. And that’s the grind: You’re never sure, as a writer, that you’ll really reach the peak. In the middle of a project, you never know that the journey will be worth it. I think when I was very young, I thought that when I got older, I’d reach a stage where I’d be confident in my writing—where I could just sit down every day and happily churn it out. That doesn’t happen. It never gets any better. You’re always unsure, and you’re never know whether your work will turn out how you want it to.
"Though I had read my novel aloud to myself many times and had read passages of it aloud to dozens of audiences on my book tour, hearing another person — a trained actor — reading my writing was a curious kick, a revelation. The words I was hearing were deeply familiar yet somehow refreshingly new." Our own Bill Morris writes about hearing his own audiobook for the first time.
The tragedy of Les, as well as his greatest virtue, lay in his absolutely uncompromising stance on art and life: the world of commerce and the world of Absolute Art is a Venn diagram with a very small overlap.
"I used to think that, until I began reading and writing in college, I had no literary education, but I was wrong. I had Natasha." Laura Van Den Berg On learning to be a writer… from a wolf.
Tuesday New Release Day
New this week: 300,000,000 by Blake Butler; Quick Kills by Lynn Lurie; A Different Bed Every Time by Jac Jemc; Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke; J by Howard Jacobson; Electric City by Elizabeth Rosner; The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec; The Letters of Samuel Beckett; Volume 3; and Blue Horses by Mary Oliver. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
Ray, the main character of the book of the same name, was familiar to me. He was a drunken doctor, a poet, an adulterer, a bigot, a deeply charming and unconventional man. The sentences in the book inspired me, reminding me of another hero, Jane Bowles. From the first few words you could not tell where the rest of the sentence might careen. ‘So I ordered a double Vodka to hose down my conscience’ and ‘I invent cheerfulness from my heart, the biggest engine.’