Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 6 September 2010

"writing fiction" by Amanda Boulter (Palgrave, 2007)

This book doesn't ignore theory - "Whatever we might think about literary theory, it has for over two millennia been addressing what writing does and why and how it works ... There are hundreds of incisive, inspirational ideas in what has been termed 'theory' or even worse 'criticism', and these ideas can enrich the process of fiction writing ... once we start asking questions of theory we might find not a pleasure-starved intellectualism, but a resource for greater freedom and creative experiment" (p.5).

It "attempts to address the issues that affect writers, cutting through the confusion of '-isms' to focus on those theories that expand creative possibilities" (p.6). None of the theory is recent, and it's been chosen most to support mainstream fiction - "for years Modernist and Postmodern writers dismissed the pleasures of story as a corrupt complacency ... in the twenty-first century attitudes have changed and there is a resurgence of storytelling within literary fiction ... Deliberations over literary prizes, discussions within review pages, and many volumes of advice for writers all seem to conclude that the core of any good fiction is a damn good story" (p.27).

It uses theory to generate options for writers and to produce useful checklists. Philosophy (world-outlook) is said to underlie movements

  • "Realism: How can we represent objective reality (what is 'out there' in the world) without literary distortion?
  • Modernism: How can we represent reality when all reality is subjective, created by an individual perspective?
  • Postmodernism: How can we represent objective or subjective reality when neither exists?", p.77

The section on story beginnings was useful. And I hadn't realised that "Genette categorizes ellipses in three ways: explicit ... implicit ... and hypothetical (where the temporal coherence of the narrative is stretched to its limits and we only realise that something is missing by its inclusion later in the story as an analepsis)", p.165

It points out that the author's voice can't be understood or generated in isolation - it's interpreted within a context involving a reader/listener.

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