Another busy week and change — traveling for work, various household things. The Fall Of The Hammer continues, if with some interruption, so that hasn't fallen off the schedule; it's just been tough to keep a regular pace with all that's happened. I spent much of Saturday the 28th getting caught up. I also made things difficult for myself and came back from the bookstore with new distractions: more Alfred Döblin (Berlin Alexanderplatz was only the tip of his iceberg), more Proust (something for Christmas break, I guess), and more, period. None of which is going to end up feeding into what I'm working on now, but that's fine; it doesn't have to.
Constant readers of these pages know I advocate tirelessly for authors feeding their heads in the right way. Not in the sense that they shouldn't read for fun, but more that they should make some conscious effort to find work that'll provide whatever they're working on with fresh perspective. The plain version of this for me is, if I'm writing something with a fantastic element to it, I try not to read too many other things that have that kind of fantastic element either — again, not to avoid copying, but because there's other things out there that might be more worth drawing on, even if they don't seem like it. The more you train your sense of observation and your power of making connections to work on things outside of the moment, the better you get at applying that skill when actually writing something.
I never mean for any of these bits of advice to sound like snobbery, an argument for not reading what you like. The other day a friend talked about Francine Prose's book about reading for writers, and how it made the mistake of staring down the nose at everyone who reads Stephen King instead of Proust. I've read enough Stephen King for one lifetime, but that doesn't mean other people will not glean anything from him. Proust is not built up by tearing down King, or anyone else for that matter. The enjoyment and appreciation and lesson-taking from these works is a palette and not a hierarchy. And as far as advice goes, the most you can do is point the way and cross your fingers; the rest is up to everyone else.
I'm also not crazy about the idea of upholding individual authors as models for how to do it "right", because that leads to more bad thinking about writing, and more bad writing, than good. Many of the most celebrated authors are terrible models to follow, because what they were doing was so personal and idiosyncratic that it makes no sense to point to it as an example. Everything they did right, they did in a context specific to them. Maybe it makes more sense to teach people to just enjoy these things on their own merits first, and then let any lessons they could draw from them stem naturally from the fact that they like reading the person's work.
If someone else's diet consists mostly of light novels, I'm not going to win them over (as if this was a zero-sum game to being with) by berating them for their vapidity, or by gushing about some pet favorite of mine and trying to sell it to them in watered-down terms. And this goes for people who want to create things, too. It's never a bad idea for them to expand as widely as they can, but not at the cost of becoming insincere about their motives or their likes and dislikes. I'd rather have people sincerely interested in things, whatever cultural level they live at, than be wannabe tastemakers forever jonesing to expand their reach.
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