Welcome to National Novel Writing Month; a challenge where over 400,000 writers try to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. My entry, Celebrity Cast, while not written in 30 days—actually I’ve been wrestling with it for close to six years—will be available soon. Here’s a peek at the cover. What’s it about? Time will tell!
I’ve touched on “genre” and the murky definition of “literary fiction” before. Here’s how Andre Dubus III, author of the novel Gone So Long, attempts to explain both: “This whole notion of ‘genre’ is more of a marketing category for publishers than anything else; a well written book is a well-written book…I tend to gravitate toward what we call literary fiction, which may simply mean character-driven stories, ones where we sense the writer has worked really hard on his or her sentences, and, of course, it has to be the kind of work that seems to be trying to illuminate truth in some way, no matter how ugly it is.”
Orhan Pamuk once wrote: “The writer must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they were other people’s stories, and to tell other people’s stories as if they were his own.” So true. So true, in fact, that my novel in progress, Celebrity Cast, is based on this concept. Stay tuned.
As I approach yet another birthday I can’t help but be sobered by the comments Philip Roth made shortly before his death earlier this year: “…by 2010 I had a strong suspicion that I’d done my best work and anything more would be inferior. I was by this time no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the verbal energy or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack of any duration on a complex structure as demanding as a novel…” Well, I hope there’s still some salt in this old shaker…
Recently I came across this from John Cheever, and with stories about kisses—wanted and unwanted—flooding the media I couldn’t resist Cheever’s very different slant:
“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”
As the poet Muriel Rukeyser famously wrote: “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Maybe you’ll find a story in your stocking tomorrow morning. I certainly hope so, and wish you all the happiest of holidays.