Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Epitaph for a good novelist

“When I'm writing... I am rarely in a good mood. A part of me prefers to work at a flat level of emotion. Day after day, I hardly see anyone. I'll put in eight or ten hours, of which only three or four will consist of words getting down on the page. It's almost a question of one's metabolism. You begin, after all, from a standing start and have to accelerate up to a level of cerebration where the best words are coming in good order. Just as a fighter has to feel that he possesses the right to do physical damage to another man, so a writer has to be ready to take chances with his readers' lives. If you're trying for something at all interesting or difficult, then you cannot predict what the results of your work will be. If it's close enough to the root, people can be psychically injured reading you. Full of heart, he was also heartless--a splendid oxymoron. That can be the epitaph for many a good novelist.”

-- Norman Mailer, in “The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing”

PLUS: In 2007, a few months after he died, Mr. Mailer won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his last novel The Castle in the Forest. The award, given by Literary Review magazine, goes to “the passage considered to be the most redundant in an otherwise excellent novel.”

Mr. Mailer's winning coital prose? “His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.”

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