John Hawkes is one of my favorite authors. He is famously quoted as saying:
I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme, and having once abandoned these familiar ways of thinking about fiction, totality of vision or structure was really all that remained.
In my mind this is what differentiates a more experimental and possibly vital form of fiction from the traditional form of fiction which might be considered as much for its entertainment value as it is for its artistic value.
Some writers refuse to be called “experimental” even when they obviously are twisting, extending, and experimenting with fiction: a good, if not as active, description then is “unconventional.”
Continue reading “The Fiction of Living” →
Nathalie Sarraute describes tropisms as the “interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.” They happen in an instant, and apprehending them in the rush of human interactions demands painstaking attention. Tropisms are the key to all of Sarraute’s work.
Since Sarraute is also a central writer in the nouveau roman, it is interesting to compare her “tropisms” to Robbe-Grillet’s Snapshots. In both works it is commonly asserted that they show the sources of the theory and technique of these writers (although one critic referred to R-G’s work as “aesthetic squiggles”).
The comparison is apt but I will suggest that Robbe-Grillet is more a noun while Sarraute is more a verb.
Continue reading “Tropisms” →
“I began to write fiction on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme.” — John Hawkes
I agree with Hawkes. Literature, especially as taught in Junior High English classes, is too important to insist on those archaic unities. Plots went out with I Love Lucy where Desiderio Arnaz clearly demonstrated that there were only three plots known to man, the rest being variations masking as variety. Character is hard to avoid but the classic importance of character development is easy to forget (no, you do not need to identify or fall in love with one of the characters). Setting is only important when the writer needs to bolster his narrative with a setting which evokes themes he (or she) is incapable of evoking himself. Do we need themes? Not really. I suspect the development of thematic fiction was good but it risked falling easily into didactic fiction and that is bad.
I might say that everything is thematic: the boy and girl theme, the levels of fiction theme, the remembrance of things past theme, the talking dog at the end of the world theme. The problem with themes is that they, like plots, get repeated a lot and no amount of variation hides a tired old theme.
Continue reading “Captain Fiction” →