By Jane Smiley
Over a rare twenty-year profession, Jane Smiley has written all types of novels: secret, comedy, historic fiction, epic. “Is there something Jane Smiley can't do?” raves Time magazine. yet within the wake of Sept. 11, Smiley faltered in her hitherto unflagging impulse to jot down and determined to procedure novels from a unique perspective: she learn 100 of them, from classics similar to the thousand-year-old Tale of Genji to fresh fiction through Zadie Smith, Nicholson Baker, and Alice Munro.
Smiley explores–as no novelist has ahead of her–the remarkable intimacy of interpreting, why a unique succeeds (or doesn’t), and the way the unconventional has replaced through the years. She describes a novelist as “right at the cusp among an individual who is aware every little thing and a person who is familiar with nothing,” but whose “job and ambition is to improve a concept of the way it feels to be alive.”
In her inimitable style–exuberant, candid, opinionated–Smiley invitations us backstage of novel-writing, sharing her personal behavior and spilling the secrets and techniques of her craft. She walks us step by step during the booklet of her latest novel, Good religion, and, in very important chapters on the right way to write “a novel of your own,” deals valuable suggestion to aspiring authors.
Thirteen methods of the radical may volume to a unusual kind of autobiography. We see Smiley studying in mattress with a chocolate bar; mulling over plot twists whereas cooking dinner for her kin; even, on the age of twelve, devouring Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which she later discovered have been between her earliest literary versions for plot and character.
And in an exciting end, Smiley considers separately the only 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 without doubt one of the such a lot 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 unique or, for that topic, desired to write one. In Smiley’s personal phrases, ones she chanced on herself turning to over the process her trip: “Read this. I wager you’ll like it.”
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Additional resources for 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
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. A novelist is someone whose inner experience is as compelling as the details of his or her life, someone who may owe more to another author, never met, than to a close relative seen every day. A novelist has two lives—a reading and writing life, and a lived life. He or she cannnot be understood at all apart from this. I once asked a woman mathematician whether it was true that math talent went with the Y chromosome, a tendency to allergies, lack of social skills, and left-handedness.
Most children's books and fantasies are about introverted, highly imaginative heroes or heroines who overcome outsider status, either so they can join the group or so they can transcend the group; children who read a lot of books come to identify with those sorts of protagonists and come to be like those sorts of protagonists. Novels for children and young adults are soothing and reaffirm the young reader's sense of worthiness. The child, who may have few friends, gathers around himself or herself an array of characters who are entertaining and forgiving and enlightening.
Genji lived a long life and had many wives and concubines. His maturation and his greatness could not be depicted in fewer pages. Don Quixote is 700 pages long. Quixote's adventures and humiliations need to build upon one another. The paperback edition of Ulysses is 783 pages—the intricacies of Leopold Bloom's day out in Dublin require it. Length, too, is simple. It begins as a mere adding on, though adding on may quickly turn into elaborating or digressing or complicating or subordinating and analyzing.
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley