Thursday, April 23, 2009

The end is nigh . . .

. . . I hope. The end of my novel that is. Another couple of weeks should do it. I have yet to decide on that very last sentence and it has set me thinking about how to end a novel. It's almost as hard as starting one, even though the crime writer has the edge over other writers in that certain things are more or less a given. The mystery will be solved and the wicked brought to book (unless you are Patricia Highsmith). Even so, it is easy to paint yourself into a corner. I read somewhere that William Golding had no idea how to end LORD OF THE FLIES. He mentioned that to his wife. She was sick of him retreating to his study every night and said 'Oh, why don't you set fire to the bloody thing?' So he did - the island, that is, not the novel. Can this really be true? I'd like to think so.
But even when you know just what is going to happen it's by no means easy to end on exactly the right note, so that the reader closes the book with a sigh of satisfaction. Apparently Truffaut, however gloomy the content of the movie, liked to end on an up note. I'm not sure that he always pulled that off, but I think it is a good idea.
Suggestions of great last words would be very welcome. I'll try to come up with some for next time.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cheap thrills and guilty pleasures

I've just got back from a holiday in France - hence no blogging for a while - with a cold that turned into a sinus infection. Feeling low a day or two ago I got into a hot bath with a novel by Jeffery Deaver. If there is a writer who is the absolute polar opposite of Virginia Woolf or James Joyce, he would be a pretty good contender. His novels are virtually pure plot and it is a bit mean of me to refer to him as a guilty pleasure because of their kind they are so well done. They are the verbal equivalent of cottage pie or macaroni cheese for supper - no effort is required on the part of the consumer, plenty though I am well aware on the part of the cook and the same will be true of Deaver. They are very inventive, move at a terrific lick, and he's a better writer than Dan Brown, who I really can't read. The other writer for days when I feel really weedy is Agatha Christie, who is a more sedate precursor of Jeffery Deaver. I can only read those if I can't remember who dun it.
For my serious reading at the moment I am reading Flannery O'Connor's letters and am so impressed by her, especially her lack of self-pity. Her life was cut short by lupus at the age of 39 and even as a young woman in her twenties, her life was very circumscribed by the disease. Yet these very limitations allowed her to concentrate on her considerable talent as a writer. She lived a fairly isolated life with her mother on a farm in Georgia and much of her contact with other writers was through these fascinating letters. Chapeau! as they say in France to salute an achievement.

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