Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Parenthetical Remark

This week's serialization is full of parentheses. After a relatively sober (if nonetheless "surrealistic") opening chunk, this one is a bit antic.

I hope that readers find all these parentheses, all these digressions, "fun." I hope it feels like Dickens, and not like, say, Derrida. I hope the reaction is "Wheeeeeeee!" (rollercoaster) and not "Ugh."

It is probably a bad sign that I feel the need to justify myself for all these parentheses. But allow me to justify myself anyway.

Firstly, this book adopts a maximalist approach to most things. It's going to be long, and filled with plot twists, and subplots filled with plot twists, and plays within plays, and bizarre situations, and odd characters. So it only makes sense to fill paragraphs with similar twists—to replicate on the micro level what is happening on the macro level.

Secondly, it is being serialized online, where publication is cheap. There are no pieces of paper to expense here. Downloading a 1kb html file versus a 1.3kb html file won't make your day or ruin it. I am working without an editor to tell me to "cut to the chase" or to "show" and not "tell." I am working without the ghosts of Hemingway or Jeremy Bentham looming over my shoulder, bothering me with diagrams of icebergs or efficiency equations (was it really efficient to have your corpse stuffed, Jeremy Bentham, and to have it preside posthumously over important meetings at the LSE?). I do hope that some day this novel will be printed as a book. Perhaps by then an editor will encourage me to drop the parentheses. But perhaps by then the novel will be famous for its parenthetical style, and readers will demand their preservation. Or perhaps by then the parenthetical style will have so completely alienated all readers that there will be no readers left, and so no editors and no publication. We'll just have to see.

Thirdly—and I realize this is another bad sign—one of my favourite writers is Marcel Proust. For Proust, revision meant addition. He was not one of those relentless cutters. "Away with section one! Away with all exposition! Away with the narrator as a personality!" To edit, for Proust, was to lengthen, to enrich, to embellish. So far, revision is going that way for me, too. I do hope Girl School is less initially alienating that Swann's Way, which took me about a hundred attempts to finally enjoy.

Finally, this is how I write, more or less. (More.)

We really will have to see.

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