Friday, 27 May 2011
The Writing's on the Window
Talk about one author that you love and why his or her writing is unique. Please be specific.
I'm gonna talk about David Lodge, because a) I love him and b) I never see him mentioned anywhere.
Often writing that is 'unique' -- and especially writing that is unique enough to be noticed and discussed in a blog post -- can be affected. Maybe I mean a less pejorative word than affected, because some of my favourite authors do it. What I mean is, the writing itself is openly, forwardly the point (or part of it). A Vonnegut plot written by anyone else would not a Vonnegut novel make: it's obvious from the first page that how he tells it -- and what drawings there are, and where he puts the asteriks -- are part of the experience.
David Lodge completely does this, and completely doesn't. Orwell said good prose is a window pane, and Lodge strives for that -- you don't notice it, you notice what you see through it. It's harder than it sound. But even so, there are plenty of authors who have a talent for clear prose that puts narrative and character centre stage, right? So that's not unique, even if he does it uniquely well.
The singularity enters when we realise that Lodge is a massive fan (also known as wind turbine) of writing. It's his favourite subject. And so his window pane isn't quite as simple as it looks, because he can't resist playing round with the fundamental idea of writing/writer/reader/page.
In Thinks..., the entire book is a stream of consciousness narrative recorded to dictaphone by a professor of cognitive science, in which he thinks alot about what and why he is recording (writing) it as he goes along. In Therapy, the narrator is self-consciously writing the book, he knows not why, and he openly plays around with writing from other people's perspectives, in an exercise for his therapist. In Deaf Sentence, the narrator decides to tell part of his novel-journal in the third person, because first is too embarrassing.
So Lodge manages the gymnastic paradox of completely clear writing, which doesn't get in the way, with an obsessive, occasionally academic, constantly fascinating study of WRITING at the same time. Lovely.