Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lit TV: Robert Olen Butler and the Terrorism of Our Own Longings and Horrors

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It's like going to school for free! It's like being in Georgia without getting on a plane! Check out Robert Olen Butler talking not only about his novel HELL, but also about the creative process. He argues that the artist creating the object is akin to an athlete "in the zone"--too much analysis destroys the ability to create the object being analyzed. Do we analyze literary fiction too much? Are conscious craft and technique "the antithesis of the creative process?" To him, the artist is the one who "faces down the unconscious," and is "profoundly uncomfortable" with abstraction.

If you like this, I highly recommend his book for writers, FROM WHERE YOU DREAM. I wrote it up a few years ago.

Also, check out Forum Network in general. I'm just getting started. Amazing resource.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lit TV: "You Have to Forget Yourself"

This craft talk by Peter Straub, offered by The Center for Fiction, starts off jokey but ends up quite serious indeed. He opens with rules and tricks, like starting a sentence with "and" or "but" is like "a rimshot" (and not in a good way), but by part three, admits to slogging with the process like anyone else. There aren't really any tricks. With regard to revision: "What really works for me is always related to something I'd written earlier, and the best advice I give myself in such times is to really go back and look at what I did on page four, look at what I did in chapter three--because there's a reason those things happen. They seem random, and at the time when you write them they may be random, but as you go on, they're determinative. They color everything that happens afterward, and they must be remembered."

He reminds that it's not about you, it's about the thing you are making. With respect to killing his favorite parts: "You have to forget yourself." I think I need to hang that sentence over my monitor.

Friday, May 06, 2011

FREEDOM's Just Another Word for Me Missing My Train Stop

This blogger thinks Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM lives up to the hype, and earned its sprawling proportions. (Love a spread-out book about, among other things, the harmful nature of spreading out.) Family conflict runs deep, and it takes a lot of pages. Just ask those Russian novelists the character Patty keeps reading. Meticulous plotting, with many, many ends he manages to tie up. Characters you love but might not want to live with--the best kind!

If you enjoyed it as much as me, you might get a kick out of this podcast from Slate's DoubleX Gabfest, in which they hash out all the major characters and themes (including spoilers, so read it first for sure). Is it a masterpiece? Do we care? What will we do until the next Franzen opus?

Also, if you're a fan, prepare to be a little freaked by this 1996 Charlie Rose roundtable in which Franzen has a mild debate with (RIP) David Foster Wallace. They are discussing the death of the novel. Turns out we humans are far more mortal than the stories we tell.

And on a lighter note, Franzen is among the advice-giving writers in this old Guardian article, "The Ten Rules for Writing Fiction." His #10, which reminds me of his characters: "You have to love before you can be relentless."