Friday, July 13, 2007

A tear rolled down his cheek

Andrew O'Hagan at the Guardian on the genesis of his novel Be Near Me. A number of interesting points here:

Writing a novel is an act of self-annihilation as much as self-discovery. You can kill whole appetites and flood whole depths while plumbing them, but if you are serious about it you also get to put something into the world that wasn't quite there before. I've been asked which of the other arts novel-writing is most like, and I have come to believe it is acting. Of course, in terms of pattern it can be like music, in terms of structure it can be like painting, but the job to me is most like acting. You give life to these characters and you inhabit them at some cost to yourself, while also realising yourself in the process.

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There's a horrible fallacy that exists in the popular discussion of fiction these days: the idea that a successful central character need be "likeable" or "sympathetic". It is surely more important that they be human, no? More crucial that they breathe? The idea that people in novels should be more sympathetic than people in life simply baffles me. The characters I have loved most in Dickens, in Evelyn Waugh, or F Scott Fitzgerald have been, at best, morally ambiguous, and that state of being can only add to the joy of the book for me.

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