Sep 8, 2009

Survey : Meta-literature

What are your thoughts on fiction about authors and writing? Books where a major character is a writer trying to make art and having a hard time of it?

I tend to be skeptical...I mean, I love it conceptually, but in practice I'm almost always disappointed. You're encouraged to write what you know, of course, and what a lot of what many first-time authors know is, well, an author sitting at the computer failing to write a book. Most of the time I find this feels cheap, and even when I really like the author's style, I wish they were writing about something else.

I've seen films and read books that are like this, and have liked them very much. Swimming Pool, for instance, and my favorite book of all time, Hopscotch. Both use the struggling-author thing as a springboard for greater achievements, though, not just as an examination of the author's own psyche. Do we care that much about a random unknown author's psyche that we want to read a whole book about it? Not often, eh.

I guess my feelings on this are best summed up by that rhyme..."When it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad it is horrid."

Your thoughts?


Maya said...

One uncomfortable word, "narcissism," comes to mind when I think of the question you raise. It can feel manipulative when the author appears, thinly disguised as the main character. The reader is forced to overlook the intrusion of a ghostly intruder. Unless, of course, it's done really well.

I wonder what the magic difference is.

Erin said...

It's probably actually magic! That would explain a lot.

Hayley said...

Okay, so I've been thinking about this for days now.

I love books and movies about journalists. Love them love them love them. Is that the same as a book about a writer? Do people who aren't journalists get a kick out of them, too?

I would add, of course, that I enjoy them when they're somewhat authentic, not just "this ditzy girl is in danger because she's an investigative journalist who saw the wrong thing but I don't have any idea what reporters actually do but I think it's a sexy idea."

The trick is having a strong character. Show me their flaws and their strengths and make me believe in them and I'll forgive most anything.