By Jane Smiley
Over a rare twenty-year profession, Jane Smiley has written every kind of novels: secret, comedy, old fiction, epic. “Is there whatever Jane Smiley can't do?” raves Time magazine. yet within the wake of Sept. 11, Smiley faltered in her hitherto unflagging impulse to put in writing and determined to technique novels from a special perspective: she learn 100 of them, from classics akin to the thousand-year-old Tale of Genji to fresh fiction by means of Zadie Smith, Nicholson Baker, and Alice Munro.
Smiley explores–as no novelist has earlier than her–the extraordinary intimacy of examining, why a unique succeeds (or doesn’t), and the way the radical has replaced over the years. She describes a novelist as “right at the cusp among somebody who understands every little thing and an individual who is familiar with nothing,” but whose “job and ambition is to improve a thought of ways it feels to be alive.”
In her inimitable style–exuberant, candid, opinionated–Smiley invitations us backstage of novel-writing, sharing her personal conduct and spilling the secrets and techniques of her craft. She walks us step by step throughout the booklet of her most modern novel, Good religion, and, in very important chapters on the right way to write “a novel of your own,” deals worthy recommendation to aspiring authors.
Thirteen methods of taking a look at the radical may quantity to a unusual type of autobiography. We see Smiley examining in mattress with a chocolate bar; mulling over plot twists whereas cooking dinner for her relations; even, on the age of twelve, devouring Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which she later learned have been between her earliest literary types for plot and character.
And in an exciting end, Smiley considers separately the single hundred books she learn, from Don Quixote to Lolita to Atonement, presenting her personal insights and sometimes debatable opinions. In its scope and gleeful eclecticism, her examining checklist is likely one of the so much compelling–and surprising–ever assembled.
Engaging, clever, occasionally irreverent, Thirteen Ways is key interpreting for an individual who has ever escaped into the pages of a singular or, for that subject, desired to write one. In Smiley’s personal phrases, ones she discovered herself turning to over the process her trip: “Read this. I wager you’ll like it.”
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Extra info for 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
Others, many of them women (though I think Flaubert fits in here), such as Jane Austen, Alice Munro, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, and Elizabeth Bowen, are especially subtle and precise. They don't cause the language to do more, but they cause it to communicate more perfectly and efficiently. George Eliot, in her use of analogy and extended metaphor, as well as in her very nuanced deployment of conceptual words that would seem dry in the hands of another novelist, is especially good at depicting a whole range of ideas that other authors hardly seem to have thought about.
For an author, adding on may amount to no more than keeping going, day after day accumulating episodes and stories, getting paid by the word and so writing more words. For a reader, adding on may offer primarily the pleasure of familiarity—the WHAT IS A NOVEL? / 9 characters or the narrator's voice or the author's way of thinking become something the reader wants to continue to experience. In a novel, length is always a promise, never a threat. When the protagonist enters, a novel becomes spécifie, and even peculiar, and loses the generality that the other four elements seem to offer.
We were reluctant to help around the house or to go outside and play. We did not have very good manners, because in numerous ways to be cited later, reading books is deleterious to good manners. We did not have good sleep habits, because if we had, we would not have read under the bedcovers with a flashlight, or held the book up to the moon that shone through the window, and ruined our eyes. We were reading because we had two lives, an inner life and an outer life, and they were equally important to us and equally vivid.