Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where I prove two things

1) I can't let go of things and 2) I'm correct.

So I'm reading Joyce Carol Oates' The Faith of a Writer. It's highly . . . academic. A little stuffy, but with some gems. One of them goes like this:

One thinks too of William Faulkner's composition of this greatest novel, The Sound and the Fury, which began as a troubling and inexplicable image--the vision of an unknown little girl with muddy underpants climbing a tree outside a window--and slowly expanded into a long story that required another story or section to amplify it, which in turn required another, which in turn required another, until finally Faulkner had four sections of a novel, published in 1929 as The Sound and the Fury. It was not until two decades later when Malcolm Cowley edited The Portable Faulkner that Faulkner added the Appendix that is now always published as an integral part of the novel.

"I am doing a novel which I have never grasped . . . . There I am at p. 145, and I've no notion what it's about. I hate it. Frieda says it's very good. But it's like a novel in a foreign language I don't know very well--I can only just make out what it is about." (89)


I hear the sweet bells of victory and righteousness ringing. They sound nice.

While I enjoy analyzing a book as much as the next person, that can be exactly the problem. The reader always reads into the piece more than the writer intends. And while a writer's voice is a hallway into his or her psyche, it's only a hallway. And it doesn't always open doors that lie in the shadows. As I write, I think more about my duty to the reader, to making the words sound true. I'm not always sure where the story is going, and sometimes there is no story. But I reread and rewrite out of respect for the reader. Not because I need to make grand statements about life or relationships or the universe. I'm only opening the front door to my hallway.

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