Friday, September 03, 2010

Quotes for a Month

Eek! Did I really not post at all in August? I was busy and distracted; some day I'll tell you about it. In the meantime, here are some choice nuggets I've come across in the past month. (And yes, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm an Anglophile.)

From Eyes on the Prize by Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for WOLF HALL, and whose memoir GIVING UP THE GHOST I'm happily devouring:
You don’t ask a plumber, what makes you plumb? You understand he does it to get his living. You don’t draw him aside and say, “Actually I plumb a bit myself, would you take a look at this loo I fitted? All my friends say it’s rather good.”...

I think there is one kind of writer who might be scalped and skinned by the demands the prize imposes, and that is the writer who finds public performance difficult, who has failed to create a persona he can send out to do the show....Generally, it seems to me, authors are better at presenting themselves than they were ten years ago. Festivals flourish, we get more practice; you could give a reading somewhere every week of the year if you liked. For me the transition between desk and platform seems natural enough. I think of writing fiction as a sort of condensed version of acting and each book as a vast overblown play. You impersonate your characters intensively, you live inside their skins, wear their clothes and stamp or mince through life in their shoes; you breathe in their air. “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Of course she is. Who else could she be?
From OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE, the latest novel by Scarlett Thomas (my other new favorite author), which should get a prize for book design:
You can identify someone who works in publishing because they tell every anecdote as if for the first time, with the same expression as someone giving you a tissue that they have just realised has probably already been used. [p67]

Almost everyone who came along to spend the week [at the writers' retreat] in the hotel in Torquay seemed to have the idea that all novels possessed the same sort of value, and took roughly the same amount of effort from the author, and that Tolstoy was a 'a novelist' in the same way that the latest chick-lit author was 'a novelist'. 'How do you even begin to write eighty thousand words?' someone would always ask, admiringly. And I'd always explain that 80,000 words is not that much, really, and that you could do it in eight weekends if you really wanted to, using Aristotle's Poetics as an instruction manual. Making the 80,000 words any good is the hard bit: making them actually important. [p115]

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