Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Reality of Fiction

A post on Katy Evans-Bush's blog reminded me tonight that I hadn't yet read Zadie Smith's Guardian essay on the essay, and I went and did so. I commend to you this article, in which Zadie acknowledges the reality of 'novel-nausea', a sickness with the artificiality of novels in general (which Katy, it seems, strongly shares) and conventional novels in particular, but takes issue with the total condemnation of fiction expressed in a forthcoming book by David Shields.

Funnily enough, I had been intending a blog on this subject myself, ever since I went back, a few weeks ago, to a place where I once lived and which I'd had in mind as one of the 'settings' when I wrote my new novel. Suddenly I found myself in the same street, and suddenly the emotions came back to me that I'd had when I lived there. I hadn't even tried to translate those feelings into the novel, as they weren't appropriate to the story, but it struck me that I never could, not precisely: because those feelings were to do with the inchoate: they belonged to the time before they could be processed, and modified, via logic and the imagination and words.

But then I wondered? Could I? Isn't that my next task as a novelist, to find some way of doing so? To dispense not only with accepted conventions but my own conventions, and write something truly real but nevertheless fictional? Because, like Zadie, I have faith in Werner Herzog's 'ecstatic truth' of fiction.


Ms Baroque said...

Ah, and you've done it in about a quarter as many words... well done!

I should say here, Elizabeth, that the problem is not with the novel itself but with novels - and also, really, with me...

SueG said...

I just posted this on Ms B's blog, which is that I read the article and got so incensed that I decided to clip it our and blog about it later. I guess you get old enough and you get tired of seeing "death of the novel" splattered all over the papers. Oh God, don't tell me it's died AGAIN. But more on that later. For now, well said, Elizabeth. And in the immortal words of Jerry Garcia, keep on truckin'.