Sunday, September 7, 2014

more anti-novel(ist) thoughts...

[cf. "lines & tales", which I wrote a while back]

I think perhaps one of the reasons I don't much care for the average "novel," nor have much interest in writing them as opposed to other literary forms, is the superabundance of characters. If you're a reader you know that very many novels not only have more than one protagonist and more than one antagonist, but as many "sub-plots" associated with as many characters. In reading, I have no taste for this. I often find it makes thrilling cinema (big screen and small), but as reading I find it completely uninteresting. I suppose I am simply less interested in characters as a writer, same as I am less interested in people in real life. I am by far more intrigued with ideas. I don't mind a novel with a single protagonist, speaking in the first person, who is the only person whose head one gets in to; for I suppose it is (as in reading philosophy) studying this character's mind. But even then, if I have no taste for the narrator's personality or narrative style (just as I am not interested in the overwhelming majority of philosophers), I'm not very likely to read his tale. Again, I seem to be as picky about fictional personages as I am about real ones. (Actually, believe it or not, I'm far more tolerant of real persons than fictional ones. The point really is I simply don't want to read about them. Reading is to me a sacred act and art, so I'm very pedantic about it.) I do enjoy the sort of "fictional monograph"-style of H. P. Lovecraft; with the exception of a few tales by Poe and Borges, Lovecraft seems to be the only person who made use of it, at least so extensively. And in his case, of course, it was always more about the conveyance of an idea and an atmosphere than it was about character. I do, nonetheless, hold to the theory that "plot" is founded upon "character": the things that happen in a story (plot) are the result of the actions of people, and those actions are founded upon who/what those people "Are" (character). Indeed, I think that the best way to unveil character is by the "Show, don't tell"-principle: a character ought to be the "mystery" of the story, and should be, as it were, "known by his fruits": the author ought to reveal the personality and philosophy of a character by depiction of that character's actions. The latter was, of course, epitomized by the great Dashiell Hammett's penultimate novel, The Glass Key.  And (shamelessly adapting a famous phrase from D.H.'s antepenultimate novel) "There's only one glass key."

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