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The new novel has gotten off to a good start, though I don’t have nearly the time I’d like for it.  There may be people who can take ten spare minutes and turn them into productive writing time, but I’m not one of them.  I need to know that I’ll have at least two or […]

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But wait.  Is Mrs. Dalloway really about buying flowers?  Not exactly, although in A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf says that buying flowers is a perfectly worthy topic.  Actually, what she suggests is that buying dresses is as important as things that men do, such as fight wars and play football. I once found […]

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Sharp-eyed readers of my recent attempts to work out a theory of literature will be excused if they have begun to suspect that I’m more interested in how something is written than what it is about.  Virginia Woolf once responded to a correspondent as follows: . . . don’t, I beg of you, father on […]

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Rather incoherent, says Virginia Woolf, and also, as is the case with all theories, too definite. Theories often seem too definite to me, too, especially theories about art, but still I can’t resist whittling away at one.  Earnest Hemingway says that when he used to get writer’s block he would write down the truest thing […]

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My extended tour of early 20th century English writing continues to be both amusing and instructive.  I don’t know of any other time and place in which writers were thinking and talking and writing so extensively about writing.  In London you had the Bloomsberries and the anti-Bloomsberries duking it out in magazines, newspapers, lecture halls, […]

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As for subjects, there’s really only one, and that’s people, isn’t it?  Virginia Woolf takes H. G. Wells to task for writing instead about things.  She’s right.  Wells’ characters talk just they do in the recent movie Flyboys, an oater about airplanes.  Unfortunately there are actors in the airplanes, and the actors have to deliver […]

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What makes good fiction?  At some level this is certainly a useless question, as ultimately it boils down to a matter of taste.  There are a great number of people who seem to feel, for instance, that Moby Dick is a great piece of art.  I would like to think that they are basing that […]

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So what really matters in fiction?  What you say, or how you say it? I’ve just read a hundred and eight pages of Hesse’s Narziß und Goldmund, an allegorical tale of the opposing Apollonian and the Dionysian spirits.  Each of the main characters represents a spirit, and that’s my difficulty with Hesse – that his […]

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I go through phases in my movie-watching, and right now I’m in a Robert Altman phase.  As I mentioned the other day, Mr. Altman is a master at filming ensemble pieces.  Last night I watched Short Cuts, which I hadn’t seen in several years.  Short Cuts is a mélange of little stories whose characters bump […]

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One of my test readers suggests that it might be a good idea to write up a brief history of the desert monk movement, and tack it onto the end of the novel: something to help out my readers who’ve somehow managed to muddle through their lives so far without a thorough understanding of this […]

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