Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Every author wants reassurance. Even authors who have chosen to blaze a solitary path. I know this from experience. There are occasions when such an author wonders, "Will anyone else believe I'm doing it the right way?"
So it comes as a relief when one happens to chance on another author who has independently trodden a similar (but not identical) path. This has nothing to do with the discovery of writers who influence you after that discovery. In my own case, I'm not referring to such masters as Nabokov, Beckett, Calvino, Barthelme and Flann O'Brien, all of whom I consciously attempted (and failed) to mimic. I'm referring instead to writers who help to confirm that the difficult path one is already following is theoretically viable or at least interesting.
I mean authors like Nathanael West, who reassured me that it's possible to nest tales within tales within tales within tales within tales, and that the techniques of Voltaire may be applied to modern concerns; to Josef Nesvadba, who reassured me that intricate plots fit perfectly well into mimimal space provided the space is part of the plot; to Primo Levi, who reassured me that rigour and wistfulness are not incompatible; and to G.V. Desani, who reassured me, and continues to reassure me, that if nearly every sentence ends with an exclamation mark, harmony among endless movement can be established!
G.V. Desani is a forgotten sage of Literature. Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1909 he travelled widely during his life and spent the Second World War in Britain. He went to India after the War and began work on his masterpiece, All About H. Hatterr. A novel impossible to categorise, Anthony Burgess defined it as the Indian Ulysses: an exuberant and yet formally planned romp through language, satire and comedy, as the main character (H. Hatterr in person) goes to consult seven Sages in seven different cities in seven separate but linked sections, coming away with a newly-won Generality that he must now utilise in an Adventure.
Desani is not only a violator but an utter disintegrator of most of the standard 'Rules for Writing Fiction'. One of the most absurd of these petty laws was recently outlined by Elmore Leonard as 'Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' Other stupid rules by other writers can be found here. In protest I wrote my own set, partly tongue in cheek, partly not, and those may be consulted here.
Meanwhile, things continue to progress slowly but inexorably in my writing world. First mention of my Tallest Stories book has now appeared on the relevant publisher's website... I have a new British Fantasy Society messageboard here... and I have just been asked to write a story for an anthology targeted at 'young adults'; I agreed to produce a piece for this because I've never written for that age group and it'll be a challenge; I don't even know if I can do it!
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