Monday, April 4, 2011

What Our Characters Do To Us --Or-- The Dangers of Writing

We’re working, slowly but Shirley, to widen up the bounds of Forest Gospel. And we read books so we decided we wanted to write about books and then I realized that using words to describe other words is a danger-pit and a different thing than making up words for sounds or posting up pictures (the latter being easier than pie (so send us your lovely arts: Additionally, my reading speed is officially slow, and literature is officially broad, so writing regularly about writing, particularly new writing, is something that isn’t likely to happen, however desirable. But still, we love words. We even strive to create them on our own sometimes. So we’ll write about books, not extensively, or even critically per se, but about how we love them, regardless of when they were published, or how popular they may already be, and how we think you would love them too (which you may already).

Because I just finished At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien. And it reminded me of The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia. Stories with muscular imaginations and masterful, pure language. Debut novels (debuting 66 years apart). Novels about novelists and their uncooperative characters. Characters lushly detailed, perfectly rendered. Novels which made me very happy.

And, as I prefaced, since I try at creating characters sometimes, I know just how uncooperative they can be.

Juan Rulfo, a masterful author in his own right, saw the need to, "disappear and to leave [his] characters the freedom to talk at will."  Rulfo's characters had respect for him.  These are novels in which the characters, without authorial permission, wish to force silence upon their creators.

The tonal register of these novels, however, sit at opposite–no, not opposite–skewed ends of a spectrum.

At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien (really, Brian O’Nolan), is, without a doubt, a comedic, lightly sinister, satirical Irish work, piercing hundred-wide, grinningly, with its insatiable wit. The story of a slack and lazy college student writing a novel about a writer writing a novel and his characters who’ve sought revenge on him for the poorness of his prose.

Plascencia’s work, though sprinkled with wide-eyed moments of magic realism, precious, smile-inducing characters and situations that linger faintly, though undeniably, with humor, is a sober work, the work of loneliness and sadness, the situation of a woman constructed of paper, of a heartsick author, of a bedwetting father and his lemon-loving daughter. The Prologue of The People of Paper has some of the most beautiful pages I’ve read.

So what of these books? They’re simply ones I’d recommend. You won’t find much more imaginative literature or, as is the important thing with books, more wonderful language than are found in these books.

Give it time. One of these days I’ll figure out how to write up a book properly.

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