I will be reading online, live, this Friday with Gina Goldblatt, Becca Gomez Farrell, and SAY Yang, in support of SAY’s book The Spineless Porcupine. We’ll kick off at 8 PM Pacific Time. Hope to see you there!
You have said that writing is a hostile act; I have always wanted to ask you why.
It’s hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.
I cannot remember when I last wrote. Last night I made the decision to say no (after days of arguing for the best possible schedule for this project, ugh) because I finally sat down and looked at my calendar and realized: there truly aren’t enough hours in the day. Something has to give.
I also realized I need to rewrite Prima Materia in omni. This may pass. But it solves so many problems. So many. And creates this vast, elegant circle to a piece I wrote back when I first started this whole thing, when I was different, a difference I can’t go back to but would like to hold dear nonetheless.
I like vast, elegant structures. They are the bones I need to hang my words on, the meta-outline that keeps me from falling off the edge of the world.
The Didion quote is from the Art of Fiction, the long-running interview series in The Paris Review, which used to be free but is now partially behind a paywall. Which is fine, it’s fair, we need to re-learn to pay for art, whether it’s through government support or direct subscription. It’s on my list for when I’m flush again.
Before you get to the paywall, though, you have the above, and this:
A certain amount of resistance is good for anybody. It keeps you awake.
Which was worth waking up for, this morning.
I’ve been reading Louise Penny’s Gamache series with a kind of fascination – not for the mystery element, which is fine, but for the POV.
It reads to me as omni, though I know plenty of other folks call it head-hopping, and they’re not exactly wrong. The image that I couldn’t get out of my head all through Still Life was of rocks being skipped across the water – just these brief, rapid dips into people’s heads. At times it’s poignant, at other times distracting – until you start to see how all these little insights are adding up.
It does, however, solve one problem of multiple POV, which is that it spares Penny from having to fully inhabit the characters, or make difficult decisions about balancing plot and pacing with creating a fully-fleshed worldview. I have no doubt that Penny knows her inspector inside and out, as she does Clara and perhaps a couple others; but for some characters it’s enough to give a few pithy inner reactions and move on. It can be a useful way to bridge moments without having to elevate yet another person to a full player in the story.
The rule of omni, as I was always taught it, is that the story is being told by an all-seeing narrator. And I think Penny’s work just slides over the line. While there isn’t a dominant Author Voice, there is a sense of containment throughout, of information being doled out very carefully.
I’m reminded too of the longago end to St. Elsewhere – perhaps that snow globe is a better fit than the skipping rocks?