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secondhand reflections

Set me aflame and cast me free,
Away, you wretched worlds of tethers...


There are many words and phrases that should be forever kept out of the hands of book reviewers. It's sad, but true. And one of these is "self-indulgent." Whoever reviewed Neil's new novel, Anansi Boys, for Kirkus calls it "self-indulgent" (though the review is, generally, positive). And this is one of those things that strikes me very odd, like reviewers accusing an author of writing in a way that seems "artificial" or "self-conscious." It is, of course, a necessary prerequisite of fiction that one employ the artifice of language and that one exist in an intensely self-conscious state. Same with "self-indulgent." What could possibly be more self-indulgent than the act of writing fantastic fiction? The author is indulging her- or himself in the expression of the fantasy, and, likewise, the readers are indulging themselves in the luxury of someone else's fantasy. I've never written a story that wasn't self-indulgent. Neither has any other fantasy or sf author. We indulge our interests, our obsessions, and assume that someone out there will feel as passionately about X as we do.

I did manage to get Chapter Seven of Daughter of Hounds begun yesterday (indulging my own fascinations with old railroad tunnels, underground places in general, shadows, burnt-out automobiles, and mildew). It was a modest beginning, only 1,104 words, but that's decent. It's something to act as a foundation. But I am starting to fear this book. It's not unusual, that I find myself fearing a novel as I near it's completion. It happened with both Threshold and Murder of Angels. But here I am, past typescript-page 400 (as of yesterday), and I still have two seperate narrative threads. I thought that they would come together towards the middle of the book, but now we're past the middle of the book and, though they are bridged here and there, they remain divided. Partly, this is an artefact of the story's having been compacted by Roc's desires to keep it under 150,000 words. Partly, it's just some strange thing that seems beyond my control. I begin to wonder if there's actually some purpose in it. I don't want to force a confluence, as I hate the feeling that I'm forcing a story this way or that when it seems to have other things in mind. But I am near to forcing it, anyway. I can already imagine the comments from reviewers, the ones who will go on about how better the book would have been if only the two narrative threads had been united early on. But that's not what happened. That's not the way this story is happening. If I force it, I might break the whole thing apart.

Nothing much to say about yesterday. The mosquitoes are eating me alive. It happens every summer. They prefer my blood to Spooky's. I don't want to be delicious, anymore. What else? After Darkness, I wanted to see something else by director Jaume Balagueró. We chose The Nameless (Los Sin nombre; 1999), because it was based (to some degree) on Ramsey's novel of the same name. Sadly, it wasn't nearly as effective as Darkness, though it covered much of the same ground. But I'm open to the possibility that the film was so marred by the atrocious dubbing job (I just wasn't up to subtitles last night) that it would be unfair of me to judge it until after I've seen it in Spanish. Also, I started playing Pariah on XBox. So far, it's a particularly claustrophobic fps. The game's world is well-rendered, the voice acting's better than usual, and the music's quite good — but I can't help but feel I'm playing Halo 2 over again or that I've only unlocked some secret side-mission. And that's probably not a fair estimate, either. I hate it when reviewers dismiss something for not being "original." Originality is the most deadly mirage in all of art. You can chase it from now until doomsday, and you'll only find yourself lost and dying of thirst. Anyway, that was yesterday.

Comments

redsleeves
Jul. 24th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
I never thought of it before, but it is totally strange to accuse an author of being self-indulgant, especially if they are writing in a "fantastical" genre.

I'm trying to think of all the times I've accused a work of being "self-indulgant" to determine if this was ever fair. The movie "Scarlet Diva" comes to mind, which Asia Argento wrote and directed. I thought this at the time because the story seemed very self-contained, and loaded with scenes that seemed gratuitous in that "look how cool and trendy and tragic my life has been" sort of way. But no one would ever accuse Kerouac of doing the exact same thing, or any of the other beat writers (well, actually folks have accused them of just that, but their opinions are not often taken seriously).
So maybe I accused this girl of being self-indlugent because this was her only film at the time (she's since directed an as-yet-unreleased adapation of "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things") Or, maybe I thought this becuase she was young and pretty and privileged, and I felt she was condescending to my boring, humdrum existance with her exiting plethora of life experiences.
Or maybe it was just because she was some dumb actress in a Vin Diesel movie and I am overanalyzing things.