Thursday, 9 May 2013

WRITERS ON WRITING #32: Anthony Burgess

The shape of a novel, like that of a symphony, is conditioned by its length.  But to speak of a shape, a form, a structure is to introduce the notion of artifice, which means artificiality.  Whether we like it or not, a novel is essentially artificial.  It is artificial in having a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Real life is all middle, also muddle.  The task of the novelist is to suggest that a slice of life has a shape, and shape is determined by a theme.  Every novel is about something, and this something can sometimes be inscribed on the back of a postage stamp.  A novel is sometimes no more than an extended anecdote.  Its plot, no matter how complicated, is reducible to a simple statement.  Madame Bovary is about bovarysme.  Great Expectations is about great expectations.  Pride and Prejudice is a very fair summary of content.  Amis père shows in what way Jim is lucky.  Amis fils wrote about money and could find no other title.

Craft and Crucifixion: The Writing of Fiction (1991)

Click HERE to visit THE INTERNATIONAL ANTHONY BURGESS FOUNDATION, an English-based organization which 'encourages and supports public and scholarly interest in all aspects of the life and work of Anthony Burgess.'  It also operates a museum/performance space in his home town of Manchester.

You might also enjoy:
WRITERS ON WRITING #29: Annie Proulx 
WRITERS ON WRITING #27: Tahar Ben Jelloun
WRITERS ON WRITING #24: Jerzy Kosinski 

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