Monday, September 14, 2015

Following the Trail of Cookie Crumbs

You are about a quarter of the way through a project you never thought you'd write.  For one thing, you look at anything book length with a mixture of suspicion if it is nonfiction, wonderment if the project settles down to the point where you begin exaggerating in that way you've come to understand as moving over to fiction.

For another, you've begun to understand that both nonfiction and fiction require research, which means you would rather do the research needed for fiction.  

Both types of research involve individuals, incidents, and some specific moments of time, but the individuals of fiction, once they begin to gather complexity and some kind of dramatic orbit, interest you more because you have to think about them as deliberate eccentric rather than actual persons, who interest you more in terms of the eccentricities they could not shake off.

Fictional events are developed to give the impression of being real, real events, particularly if they are being constructed for written commentary, need to have strong suggestions of story.  Your observations confirm your belief that a roman a clef novel is often regarded as being closer to the actual truth than a biography.

The project you never thought you'd write and are now about a quarter of the way through is in fact nonfiction, but it has the saving grace of being about fiction.  Your research involves a combination of the kinds of research you'd do for a nonfiction book as well as the kinds you'd do for a novel or collection of short form.  

From all the novels you've read, you've culled one hundred which you regard as the hundred from which you've gleaned the most tools and techniques.  These techniques are significant to you as tools you've used in in life and in your own attempts at writing and teaching fiction and as editorial tools when you assume that remarkable position of talking interpretation of a text with its author.

Your plan is to write befitted essays of approximately six hundred fifty words or less on each of the hundred novels, discussing what you got in terms of technique, with no room for generalities or glib, attenuated inferences, such as "The dialogue of this novel took me to the time and place of its historical setting."  

The plan is to longer over each of these mini-essays or, as you've come to think of them, entries until they speak to you as you believe they did at first reading, before you became aware of the gift you received from them.

As you move from one mini-essay to the next, writing about your discoveries, you are well into your belief that this project is in effect asking you to reeducate yourself, looking at these old friend novels as you consider your experiences with some of them over as much as a half century.  You note the progressions of your interests and the way a particular title has prepared you for the enjoyment of others that had yet to be written.

At the quarter mark, you note your special feelings for the narrative tone, the voice of your favored novels, and the emotional information you've gleaned from the reading.  Following the cookie crumbs of your curiosity, you've ended by no means in the clutch of the witch, as did Hansel and Gretel, rather in the clutch of a Catch-22 kind of deadpan with satiric overtones and implications.

Checking through some of your old friends, you notice passages and situations that caused you guffaws and the need to stop reading in order to laugh.  One vital thing you've learned thus far is how to take in the humor without breaking into the uncontrollable laughter.

You hope this deadpan has followed you from your reading into your composition.  You have three-quarters of the text left to find out.

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