|A child's shoe found at Auschwitz|
Seen at the Museum of Peace, Caen
My dearly beloved nemesis Foucault suggests that it isn't worth writing a book unless it teaches the author something. This I can empathise with. All the novels I have written so far have taught me something. Even subjects I thought I knew inside out I have learnt more while researching. Milan Kundera develops this idea further when he states in his Jerusalem Address: The Noel and Europe that 'great novels are always a little more intelligent than their authors.' Sounds surprising and unlikely doesn't it? I have a very lively group of second years with whom I had a very interesting debate about this comment yesterday. I suggested that perhaps it could mean that as novelists we make our stories more intelligent by leaving questions on the page (yes a Blanchot idea that I have previously mentioned) for the reader to answer because as writers we should withdraw from the text and leave it as 'witness not authority' (Foucault). The moment we step into the realms of it being an authority means a story is going to be didactic, which will cause the reader, more than likely, to switch off. I believe a book should be a challenge to write and you leave, having written the story, knowing more than you did before, something the reader should also experience.
I know that all sounded a bit highfalutin didn't it? what I suppose I really mean is that whatever you are writing you must make sure you write the best you can and that you research your piece. I marked an historical piece recently that had a phone call in the middle of it. The piece was set about 30 years before the phone was even invented. It is slips like that that can really destroy a piece for the reader. They stop 'suspending disbelief' as they start thinking if that's wrong what else is. Research is so important. The photo above comes from a trip to Caen that I took while researching my PhD novel. Little did I know then that some of that research and, in particular, the visit to the Museum of Peace, would be so useful for my latest novel. I love doing research but am also aware that you have to know when to stop. I have known several people who were so busy researching every detail of their story they actually never got round to writing it.
As those of you who follow this blog will know a month ago I typed 'The End' to my latest novel. It has been sitting in a metaphorical drawer. I will be going back to it very soon to add in the light and shade, fill in the colour. Part of that will include the research I have done which will mean I can add tiny details that just add credibility to my story and make it more intelligent than me, while leaving questions on the page for the reader.
What I would suggest is a better recommendation for writers is not necessarily to write what you know but to write what you are interested in. Paul Klee suggests that drawing is taking a line for a walk, I would suggest with writing it is taking your words for a walk. See where they take you, you might be surprised. Have a fun weekend everyone.
This week's sound track is Reel Big Fish with Take On Me. It is a song I very much associate with my sons as this is a band they have been to see many times. There used to be a lot of car singing and dancing to this song many moons ago. They are grown and flown leading very happy lives that is still surrounded by music. I know this would form part of their sound track so it is for them and for their future.