Alan Hollinghurst in the Guardian Review (Hollinghurst really is on my very short list of most accomplished and extraordinary writers, & this essay is not surprisingly extremely perceptive & thought-provoking):
I realise in retrospect that when I'm creating a character, though I need to be able to hear them, and to have some sense of their scale and magnetism, I never really see them very precisely. It is the quality of their presence that seems to matter most. I have a feeling for, say, Nick's size (about 5ft 6) and I know that he has curly blond hair and blue eyes, but I've no idea what his nose or his hands are like. Similarly with Gerald Fedden, the wealthy Tory MP in whose house Nick spends the four years of the story, whose only particularised features are a large mouth and a hawkish nose. I see him clearly from the corner of my eye, but when I look at him full face he is a blur. It's not a calculated strategy, but I realise that such blurs, probably common to most writers, invite the unconscious participation of the reader in imagining the detail of a character; they are also very easily filled and animated by actors.
Other good things too, including reviews of a number of books I desperately want to read: Nicholas Lezard on Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation (co-authored with Catherine Johnson); Niall Griffith's on Alan Warner's new novel (which is almost certainly waiting for me in a box at the office, only I haven't made it in there for the last few days because I'm in a chaotic/haphazard world of packing and editing); and (oh, I really wish I had this right now!) Joanna Briscoe on Jilly Cooper's latest ("Wicked! is as long as Anna Karenina and that, surely, is a mistake").
Hmmm... my mail-forwarding only stops on the 15th, I'm afraid if I order it it will get forwarded to Cambridge & then lost... but perhaps it is safe & I can just do it, it would be well worth it to get back to my apartment on the evening of Sunday the 21st and find it waiting for me, it would be exactly what I would most want to read. Worth a shot, perhaps (or I could get it sent to the Columbia office and go in and pick it up, only even that would take a spot more energy than I'm likely to have after the weekend of wedding-ing).
You know what? I am going to order it, and damn the consequences! Sooner or later it will come to my hands & then I will devour it....