What a timely month to write something about this book! Just to let you know, this month is that time of the year when wannabe and would be writers hack over their keyboards for the National Novel Writing Month. That’s NaNoWriMo for the acronym lovers.
I was really intending to join this event. I even bought two books on fiction writing just so I could prepare for it, one of them being this one. But I held back for two reasons. First, there’s too much work, in and out of the office, that keeps my hands full. Second, my computer broke down, which also explains the lack of activity in this blog.
But let’s not talk about that. Such rantings can be found all over the Internet and I am not supposed to write something about the miserable condition of my PC, which would only turn CPU and auxiliary fans when the power button is pressed.
This book is a transcript of the lectures that the notorious Ayn Rand held among selected friends. I haven’t read a novel by Rand yet but I do have her monstrous novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. However, I don’t feel like reading novels of such breadth at this point. And yes, I am now reading Gone with the Wind, which might seem ironic. But really, Mitchell’s novel is just a novella compared to the works of Rand.
So why trust someone’s tips on fiction writing when one has not read his works yet? You see, I have a love-hate relationship with Rand. I both admire and sneer at her confidence. I admire it because I value confidence myself. I think people who do not have an ounce of it do not deserve any place in this world. And I sneer at it because I get the feeling that her confidence is crossing over narcissism.
To illustrate a point, she never fails to include her works as good samples in her lectures. And when I read the samples, which are excerpts from her novels, I feel that they are dry. Yes, I have the temerity to say that Rand writes boring prose. But that does not mean that she does not have any say on fiction writing.
In all fairness, she gives invaluable and sensible tips. In doing so, she gives good samples, which I already mentioned, and bad samples, which shows us how lacerating her criticism can be. After reading the book, I can honestly say that she has a grudge against Thomas Wolfe and Gertrude Stein, the first she calls as someone who throws words everywhere and make it appear as literature, and the latter as someone who doesn’t know spelling and grammar.
She also has a love-hate relationship with Sinclair Lewis. She says that Lewis can write so much more if he does not hold back. Same with Anton Chekhov. She also enjoys his works, only because they are intelligent, but from a moral point of view, she says that Chekhov does not have any morality as far as his writings are concerned.
You have to give the woman credit for all the judgment she’s making, however hair-raising they are, because they make up for the insights that she gives on fiction writing. And the single, quintessential thing that I learned from this book is that the ultimate purpose of reading should be entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. I always put that in mind every time I start reading a new book.
Reading this one made me really interested on that Victor Hugo novel, Notre-Dame de Paris, which is The Hunchback of Notre Dame in English, which was adapted into an animated film in the mid 90’s, which is interesting because how could Disney adapt something that is so dark, so morbid, so violent?
And if you come to think of it, aren’t animated films filled with such? And children’s lit as well while we are on the topic of violence? And ironically, or maybe not so ironically, the target market of such violent stuff are children.
Which is not something that is discussed in this book. I am just saying, that’s all.
(Image courtesy of Tower.com)