Tuesday, April 24, 2012

They Said It

While pondering my purpose as a writer I came across the quotes below.  Some are curious, others strange, but they are all true.

"The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say. "

--F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen.”

--Dashiell Hammett

"Genius gives birth, talent delivers."

--Jack Kerouac

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”

--Jim Tully

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." 

-- Oscar Wilde

"Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer - and if so, why?"

-- Bennett Cerf

"Easy reading is damned hard writing."

"A writer doesn't solve problems. He allows them to emerge." 

--Friedrich Dürrenmatt

"Half my life is an act of revision."
--John Irving

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Literary Fiction is Not Boring, is it?

No. It is not.

Naturally, my answer cannot be anything but.  I read a variety of genres, from suspense to young adult, but literary fiction is the genre I gravitate to most when reading (and writing).

But it is not everyone's favorite.

Literary novels are often perceived as boring and lacking urgency or creativity, as being slow paced and devoid of action.

For me, literary fiction is like good wine - each word should be savored and enjoyed, slowly and deliberately. Let the words come alive and paint a vivid picture, sing to your soul. But it's the middle of July, and heat radiates from every leaf and blade of grass along the lake road, from the tar-papered sides of the lake cottages, from the dust that hands in the air like sheer curtains - Julie Orringer, The Smoothest Way is Full of Stones.

Perhaps it comes down to wrong expectations - they are not page-turners that can be (or should be) browsed through or read in one night -  that defeats their purpose.

Do you enjoy literary fiction?  Why or why not? What is your favorite literary fiction title?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Judging a Book

We have all been told one time or another not to judge a book by its cover.  Naturally, this advice makes good sense, unless you are looking at a cover simply to quickly gauge whether it is a genre you like to read or are willing to experiment with. If I judged by the cover, I would not have picked up The Berlin Boxing Club, for example. And that would have been my loss.

But aside from the cover, when do you decide whether a certain novel is one you want to read or leave on the shelf?

Is it the blurb on the inside jacket?

The first page?

The first paragraph?

Or just the first sentence?

I usually buy my books in a physical bookstore - there is something about being in the presence of so many works that simply cannot be had by clicking "add to basket" or "checkout."  I will select books randomly, regardless of cover.  I skip the blurb and go straight to the first page.

If I am hooked, I am hooked after the first sentence.  ("The year was 1937; the month was September, the evening unseasonably cold.") If I am not fully satisfied, I will read the rest of the paragraph and, most often, the rest of the page.  If the story and I do not connect after that first page, chances are we won't and the book is going back onto the shelf.  Style and theme, in my opinion, do come across almost right away.

How do you judge a book?