Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Writing: fun?

Writers respond to the question 'writing for a living: a joy or a chore.'

Will Self's answer is probably most consonant with what I think about writing fiction. Nobody is making you do it, contra to what Amit Chaudhuri seems to be arguing (I've met Chaudhuri a few times and this point seems typical of his Eeyorishness - he's also a classically-trained singer and one occasionally gets the impression that he'd rather be doing that most of the time.) It's pleasing that self refuses angst here. Ronan Bennett is straight to the point as well: 'I am not a tortured writer', he says, pleasingly opting out of the mythopoetics I was discussing last week. Julie Myerson is right to say that our writing tells us much about ourselves that we don't already know, and that this can often be frightening (but, I think, it's just as often comforting or reassuring). Geoff Dyer claims to prefer the tinkering and toning to the initial act of invention, something I can sympathise with at times.

But John Banville? Bloody hell. I'd like to credit him with being ironic here, but I suspect - having read The Sea, simultaneously the least original novel ever and the one that behaves as if is the most radical - that he isn't. Banville's utter pomposity is perhaps matched only by that of the actors in Blackadder.

Self is riding the updraft of my estimations at the moment, though. As a bonus, read the transcript of his absolute demolition of Richard Littlejohn and his 'novel' To Hell in a Handcart here.


Karl said...

Jaysus - there's a real Bono-ish quality to Banville's reply, isn't there?

Joe said...

It's super-Bono. It's Bono meets Blanchot (Maurice Blono?)

Does Banville possess any self-consciousness whatsoever, or does he impart all of it to his narrators?

Attic Fantasist said...

Hey, Joe and Karl, I found out today that Banville has started writing whodunits under a pen name. I'm loving your Banville jibes; I must get round to reading some of his stuff. Have either of you read Toibin's The Master? I bought it in a charity shop yesterday and remember it merely because he got there writing his James novel before Lodge did, whose essays about the process of being beaten to it are wonderful.

That interview with Nicky Clarke is a real gem!

Joe said...

I saw Lodge give a talk on the 'great Henry James novel' competition. He read the extract from his own effort where James goes to see his ill-fated play being performed, which - given the novel's own muted reviews - led us dangerously close to some Viccish world of textual collapse.

Oh, that was all a bit 'The British Museum is Falling Down', wasn't it?

I can't remember Banville's pen name, but I recommend that you, as a Sebaldian, read The Sea. You'll see straight through it in about five seconds. Melancholy aging man (rather unsubtly named 'Max Morden', FFS) goes to a melancholy seaside resort to think melancholy thoughts about his dead wife, melancholy thoughts about the nature of art, melancholy thoughts about love and fidelity, and melancholy thoughts about a melancholy incident that happened in his youth where a melancholy encounter with a melancholy family made him feel melancholy. It has a vaguely Sebaldian temporal signature, and some vaguely Sebaldian meanders. In reality, though, its a tapestry of quotes (almost literally) from Beckett, Nabokov, Murdoch, and the European Axis of Melancholia (Blanchot; Pessoa; Rilke).

Shit, I've made it sound too likable. In reality, it is absolutely excruciating...