I’ve been reading a handful of modernist novels lately. In fact, I picked this as the theme for the book discussion that I hosted for our book club last month. Currently, I’m reading some palate cleansers to resume my modernist streak. But I want to go back soon. It’s evident with my choice of topic for today’s Writing 101 challenge.
Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.
Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macarons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or…you get the idea.
Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!
Disclaimer: This challenge is no attempt to capture the personalities of the great writers I picked who are going to have an imaginary conversation. They are merely representatives of my feelings for their works, at least the ones that I’ve read. There are bound to be misrepresentations here, so I suggest not to cite this post as a reference for anything.
Knut Hamsun: I’m Knut Hamsun, one of the early literary modernists. I’m the author of Hunger and our host blogger loves this novel. I say he’s a great intellectual.
James Joyce: I’m James Joyce, one of the high literary modernists. I’m the author of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and our host blogger hates this novel. I say he’s a dumb bore.
KH: Had you sustained the tone of your novel as it were in the early chapters, perhaps he would have at least been okay with it.
JJ: I really couldn’t care less for the common readers. My novels are meant for academicians. An I.T. major who has forgotten how to write a single line of code has nothing to do with this.
KH: That’s a little condescending for someone who’s supposed to have written a coming-of-age novel.
JJ: You don’t really expect me to write a YA novel, do you?
KH: I see where you are coming from. As it is, I feel that I have a more harrowing subject matter.
JJ: Now that is condescending.
KH: Themes of self-preservation and transcendence have been recurring in all of literature. And yet readers are intimidated by them.
JJ: I like that you chose hunger as a means for transcending, but seriously? An unreliable mad man? That’s very predictable.
KH: He is not merely mad. He is a man who can live comfortably if he wants to. But he didn’t. Now that is contrast.
JJ: That’s not contrast, that is stereotyping.
KH: And what about your Dedalus? It seems to me that his issues are non-issues.
JJ: Here you go talking about transcendence, and dismissing religious and artistic crises as non-issues at the same time.
KH: You have to admit that it has to do with how you wrote it.
JJ: We both wrote it using stream of consciousness, although yours sounded more like an interior monologue.
KH: Yours sounded like it was patches of scenes collated from various sources.
JJ: Which is exactly the point of psychological novels dealing with metamorphosis.
KH: Which also is exactly my point. I just managed to be cohesive and not too alienating to push away the reader.
JJ: As I mentioned, I am a meant for academic readings.
KH: So are we going around in circles?
JJ: No, unless you want to discuss Finnegans Wake. So why are we here again?
KH: Our host blogger is listening to us. Do you think he will still read you?
JJ: He attempted to buddy read Ulysses. But he failed. Ha! And you?
KH: He has also read Mysteries and he seems keen to read Growth of the Soil.
JJ: I’m pretty sure he’s going to pick up Ulysses again so that he can piss himself off.
KH: I don’t know why you have to be so difficult with everyone. No wonder you didn’t win the Nobel.
JJ: And here’s a Nobel laureate who sympathized with the Nazis.
KH: Didn’t you?
JJ: Don’t ask me. I just drank and drank.