Reading is the process of gently breaking yourself: eroding dogma, undermining opinion, fracturing certainty. It’s a continual process of renewal: evaluating the things that we are sure are true, against new evidence that our certainty maybe unfounded, leaving us with the choice of growth, or stagnation. It’s an aggregated activity: we may not read one page that changes us, but the pages, in aggregate, change us immeasurably. If we are open to the opportunity.
All this would give the writer great satisfaction. But though feted and exploited by questionable allies, Solzhenitsyn should be remembered for his role as a truth-teller. He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees.
Some great novelists, like Jane Austen, mostly absent themselves from their narratives. George Eliot is present everywhere in Middlemarch, often speaking in the first person. We are in the company of someone humorously wise. It is risky for a novelist to explain her characters’ behavior by making observations from life, but she does so with a subtlety that animates those characters rather than turning them into demonstrations.
I remember Middlemarch as being a novel of small things. I really should reread it as it has been a few years.
Bianca’s (uncomplicated) textual analysis process:
- Read the text carefully and highlight the bits that I think are really interesting and evocative (make me imagine people, places, situations or think about big ideas).
- Under each human experience rubric heading (see table given in class) write one or two things that I found in the text. These become sub-headings under the main rubric headings.
- I then number each thing I’ve found (e.g. ‘1. Striving for authenticity’) and then go through my highlighted bits in the text and put the relevant number beside it. (i.e. the quote(s) I highlighted that best evidences ‘striving for authenticity’).
- I type up the quotes under the headings/sub-headings in a new document. For each quote I try to identify what device is being used by the composer to communicate the idea and add this beside it. This isn’t always something you can put your finger on in the example, like a metaphor or simile, but could be something broader like characterisation, structure, perspective or narrative voice that the example shows.
- For each piece of evidence, I think about why the identified device is effective at making the reader think about the identified idea in the subheading, and why the composer would want me to think about that idea, or feel a particular emotion, or imagine a particular situation etc. This is about the purpose and the effect of the device used to create meaning.
- Once I have all of this information, I start to write. Usually I write in IDEA sentences (it is natural for me now and allows me to say more in less words) but not always, so don’t confine yourself to a formula.
If this world can be saved, it will be by those with imagination, compassion, courage, perseverance and the ability to ignite those qualities in other people, using only the power of words.
Jenny Mackness collates Joanne Harris’ response to the question of why write.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was due out in June. Terrified by its dystopian reality, his publisher told Muggeridge that booksellers who read it claimed to be too scared to sleep at night
From Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time. Courtesy of Knopf. Copyright © 2018 by Hilary Spurling.
Baldwin and Coetzee, with their lives and their novels, help to illustrate the unburiedness of national trauma, the ways that collective wounds trickle into the individual psyche, and ultimately just how essential it is to come face to face with history in order to enable true, sustaining reconciliation. It is impossible to divorce ourselves from history; but perhaps our intertwining with its painful legacies keep us committed to altering its course for posterity’s sake
The complicated legacy of the writer’s estate.
Evan Kindley untangles the complicated history of Kafka’s literary legacy by focusing on the ownership of his texts.
Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, our survey of established authors' tips for successful authorship continues, including Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Rankin. Will Self, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín. Annie Proulx and Helen Simpson
via Maria Popova