News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

From letter to a friend -- Dude: ... What I need to know, and if you'd be so kind as to help me, is just where the writing works in addition to where it does not work. I see elements that I could improve (my grasp of the vernacular is weak at best, I need more specific terms for things (brand names, common names for flora, and so forth), I need to spend more time describing the psychological growth of character as opposed to analyzing events.)

But clearly there's much more that I need to work on. The worst part is that there are apparently complete blank areas in my mind in terms of normal values or expectations. An example is my lasting contempt for pity, sympathy, and guilt. Having fairly well eradicated or suppressed such emotions, it's hard to produce such feelings on the page. To a degree I imagine the same is the case with you.

I'm aware of how smug it sounds to state that I often wonder if I'm not disqualified for novel-writing by virtue of being imaginative and curious about the world about me: I often feel I'm simply not feeble enough to take an interest in the psychological development of dullards who lack imagination and intellectual curiosity and thus, as far as I can make out, exist with barely a mental life; and I'm quick to recognize the tedious tactic employed by many writers of recounting history or current events or otherwise laying out a grab-bag of facts without the addition of interpretation (many writers simply trot out a standard selection of left or right-wing cant and shibbolleths in lieu of thinking for themselves).

Perhaps this is a problem that arises from being historically knowledgeable in part. Mencken pointed out that novelists in his day were almost always philistine idiots, consumed by dollar-chasing, and given to belief in all kinds of bozo notions and conspiracy theories (Paul Theroux has entertained some rather wild imaginings in the past). Menck found the better class of businessman far more honest and informed, and to generally have much better taste in terms of cuisine and booze.

Anyway, enough carping. Where there's a will there's a way. Failure is the mother of success. Yadda-yadda-yadda.

Hope to see you on Friday. The direction of my professional future rests on this more than you might think...

No comments:

Post a Comment