Monday, January 11, 2010


I all too frequently hear some wimpy novelist, whether of the thriller or nice-nice variety, talking on public radio about how he or she lets the characters take over, and it is just so surprising, these fools say, what they see these mostly made-up characters do in their mostly made-up situations.

And the fawning interviewer often says that this nonsense proves the conventional novelist is brave. The novelist who plays it safe by running fast from anything real.

Recently, as our Paris trip comes closer, we have been moving back to Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Sometimes they get into literary fantasy too, but this is rare, for it is so clear that they – in the manner not so much of novelists as of the best of today’s memoir writers – work hard to find out what is in the concrete reality of their own lives – not some fantasy thing that disturbs no one and makes professors of literature and conventional writing teachers feel safe.