Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are you feelin' it?

The parts of my mind not currently occupied with visions of dancing sugarplums have been taken hostage by this new novel, which I am determined to have done-ish* by very early 2011 - as in end of January, if things go swimmingly. So allow me a brief digression on the subject of the supposed war between feelings and craft in the making of fiction....

From the Dept of False Dichotomies:

"I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless rehashing, speculation and deleting and got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no FEELING. Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS and the hiding of feelings." - Jack Kerouac

To which I say: exactly... exactly the opposite of all that.

Or, less glibly, I say: I like feelings in fiction, too! (Whatever "feelings" means, but let it stand for now.) However, I have discovered that, for myself at least, the feelings that come across in fiction that has not been put through a process of "revisions and endless rehashing, speculation and deleting" are the most obvious ones, the most superficial, the least interesting. The people I am interested in writing about do not spend their days endlessly emoting, which may mean I need to find more interesting subjects, but if it doesn't, then those people's feelings need to be teased out through much careful work, not violently harvested with a rusty spork. We'd all like the people around us to be emotionally honest and authentic and in touch with their feelings, etc, but in the real world, and especially in this country and this culture, feelings often get hid. So it's down to detective work, not the kicking down of random doors.

There's more life and pleasure in unholy mess to inert precision, but I'd rather not have to choose between the two, preferring to abide by the old Led Zeppelin ideal of "tight but loose."

Now, back to it.

* that is: done, but for the fretting, re-revising, re-working, and the slaughter of all darlings who ignored previous evacuation orders.


Also, if you really prefer raw, unrehearsed FEELING, there's always Nicolas Cage:

1 comment:

nathan said...

Granted, arguing writing with Kerouac may seem as fresh and to-the-moment as debating the definition of "rock 'n' roll" with Buddy Holly, but I do keep seeing this quoted approvingly hither and yon, and it plays into something I often confront when I am down to the wire.