The Novelry Blog

Where the writers are.

 
Writing The Modern Novel: From Scott Fitzgerald to Sally Rooney Jul 29, 2018

Shame and Sacrifice.

The modern novel, when it's great, turns these sad old tricks beloved of its forbears.

When I was reading Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends, I was struck by the name of the male character, the romantic hero, 'Nick Conway'.

I thought - 'Nick Carraway'?

You will know that is the name of the narrator of The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, and when I started to compare those two books, I began to think about the prose and structure of both side by side. Then I began to compare the roles of the characters in the great classic Gatsby with Conversations with Friends. In Gatsby, Nick Carraway observes the romantic hero, admires him and his beloved Daisy. In Conversations with Friends, the narrator Frances observes and admires most of all Bobbi, who has no love object. This little matter creates a bit of a dead-end in the structure of the book; it turns out on closer inspection. Bobbi is self-sufficient in a way I guess many of us would wish our...

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Writers - Read Rooney! Jul 22, 2018

Sally Rooney is my writer of the year. 'Conversations with Friends' - my book of the year.

At just halfway through the year, and with Ms Rooney just 26, you may think this is a moment of ill-considered or reckless admiration on my part. You may think I'm really stretching things to claim she is the heir apparent to Hemingway, based on one novel.

But I will make a case for that based not just on that novel but the short story 'Mr Salary' for which Rooney was Winner of the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. I should add that with her new novel 'Normal People' being published next month, Ms Rooney is not a one-book wonder. 

Sally Rooney writes with such a painstaking candour and more as I will show below, that I am sure we have great things to come from her. 

It is the case that the 'truth' will set you free as a writer, as Hemingway himself practised sp robustly, and Sally Rooney purveys the same...

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The Female Writer and Anger. Jul 08, 2018

If you are a woman and you are a writer, you are not allowed to be angry.

If you feel angry about something and write with high feeling, you may be described, as a former agent once described a piece of my writing, as 'hysterical.' 

She did not mean -  'very funny'.

Hysteria: extreme fear, excitement, anger, etc. that cannot be controlled.

- an old-fashioned term for a psychological disorder characterized by conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms (somatization) or a change in self-awareness (such as a fugue state or selective amnesia).

- "characteristic of hysteria," from Latin hystericus "of the womb," from Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb

Hysteria was a psychological affliction presenting exclusively in women during a period of greater individual freedom and migration in the Victorian era in the United Kingdom with a developing urban industrial economy...

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Politics in the Novel. Jul 01, 2018

Most 'big' books will have a theme and that's what I mean by politics.

This is not to say that theme belongs to a party-driven agenda - a book should not be in my opinion a vehicle for an organized group. Party = partie, in French, parted or departed, divided, to one side. Taking a position which is aligned to any established group degrades the author and the reader. (I hate to see authors' politics trumpeted on social media, it puts me off reading their books. No one wants their nose pushed into the swill of the trough.) Readers are intelligent people who form their own opinions and many will have experiences and opinions quite different to yours and if you only wish to speak to those who agree with you, then you should stick to social media and keep hitting the unfriend button.

'Big' books fast-forward our collective thinking, usually by crushing or condemning a commonly accepted truth or way of life. They trample on convenient, fast-food commonplace ideas. 

...

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Defying Gender as a Writer. Jun 17, 2018

 Women, Men & Other Clichés

 'I think being a woman is like being Irish... Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the time.' Iris Murdoch.

Gender is an old-fashioned concept, but it has played some part in the body of work that is literature, and it might be innocent to say it no longer plays a part. Yes! The LGBTQI has been a huge and helpful force for change to think outside the two boxes, but we're not there yet!

The Man Booker 2007 winner, Anne Enright has spoken out on how books by women are rarely reviewed by men, while books by men are appraised by critics of both genders. The implication is that literary editors believe books by male writers express universal concerns while those by women are regarded as much narrower in scope, lacking the subtlety needed to engage the mind of the cerebral male. Anne Enright has also observed that The International Dublin Literary Award (formerly known as the Impac),...

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