So, I’m still writing the novel. Just past 57,000 words, now. I figure I’ve got about 20-25,000 left to go. Very importantly, I figured out how it ends. Meaning, I knew in general how it ended all along, but now I know how to get there. I’ve re-read what I’ve written from time to time…make a few changes here and there, but the main thing is the story is compelling. At least, to me it is. I do hope other people like it. To me, it’s a real page-turner…and I already know what’s on the next page, being the author of it, and all. There will be a lot to do in the re-write after the first draft is done…increasing the descriptions, diving a bit more deeply into character development, making the overall Narrative flow better. I’m having a lot of fun writing it. Though it will take longer than I first thought – originally hoped to have it out in May, but now that will slip by several months. Partly because I got dragooned into working on another project which will absorb some writing time over the next month or so.
The other day the news did what Chesterton pointed out is the primary purpose of the news: telling people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive that Lord Jones is dead. In this case, Lord Jones was Ursula Le Guin. I had never heard of her until I found out she was dead. In case your ignorance matches mine regarding this lady, she was a famed sci-fi/fantasy author…writing lots of books and winning all manner of awards. Someone quoted a passage from one of her books and said this was the most beautiful opening paragraph he had ever read:
Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of the ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish hangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moon-driven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.
If you like that, then I’m afraid my novel is going to be a terrible disappointment to you. It is just a bunch of words strung together, in my view. I initially thought the guy who posted that on Twitter was joking – and maybe he was (it is hard to tell), but the comments from people about it indicates that some people actually think this is meaningful stuff. Deep. Thoughtful.
Its about a freaking jellyfish drifting with the tide! Its drivel!
It got me thinking about the whole concept of creative arts – and thinking that it is in a very bad way. Ms. Le Guin wrote that on purpose and people read it and gave it awards. I am flabbergasted. I’d be embarrassed if I wrote anything like that. I’m hoping that she wrote it as a joke – that the rest of her writing was better and that she merely put that out once securely rich and famous as part of an “I wonder if they’ll really just buy anything I write?” experiment.
Then I read a bit from Andrew Klavan about how he was viewing the upcoming Oscar awards:
The Oscars as a glamorous, televised, fun event are a relic of the days when film was the central American art form, the way America told stories to itself. When an art form is at its peak — which usually comes pretty early in its life cycle — the greatest works and the most popular works are usually one and the same. The movies, for instance, peaked around 1939 when the nominees included Gone With The Wind, Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, and The Wizard of Oz. All are still rightly considered classics and all were in the top ten at the box office.
I’ll have to agree with that. My Mrs gently chides me for my preference for old movies, but I really find most modern movies unwatchable. There have been a few recent offerings I liked. In sci-fi, for instance, I liked Interstellar. It got panned, but I thought it the most interesting sci-fi movie since, say, Planet of the Apes in 1968. But, mostly I just keep watching old movies. They are just better, in my view. For instance, for most of my life I had ignored Citizen Kane: mostly because I figure a movie that praised couldn’t be as good as people were saying. Then I watched it all the way through. And then watched it again. It is the best movie ever made in my view. I’ve watched Lord only knows how many movies, but I’ve never seen anything as interesting as that – something so crisply done, such great dialogue, such phenomenal acting and cinematography. Klaven has hit upon something – the movies are worn out. So is fiction writing. So, too, is writing in general (Matt and I were most pleased with those who opined Worst was well-written; we really appreciated that…but, I can’t argue against the people saying it…most books written these days are simply badly written…I mean, just terrible, and they are written by people who supposedly went to school and learned how to write. I just started writing in 2003 and slowly got better at it).
It occurred to me that part of the reason I’m writing my novel is the same reason that C S Lewis wrote the Narnia series: he took one look at what people were reading, was appalled and set about trying to write something worth reading. So am I. I don’t know if anyone will read it; I hope they do. But my purpose is clear: to write a story which will be interesting and fun to read.
And I think that is where the modern arts have gone wrong: they aren’t trying for interesting and fun. They are trying for something else…a message, or a moral, or simply to be as weird as they can, because that is where the awards and book contracts are. I’m writing a fairy tale – and that means I’ve taken some average folks and put them in strange, dangerous situations where they can only rely on their courage and each other to triumph over evil. You know – it is a story which you can imagine yourself landing in, and then imagine how you might react. There is no sex in my book; though there is love. There is violence, but not gross violence. No one is depressed. They are, at turns, afraid and unsure…but they aren’t wallowing in self-pity and trying to get to some cosmic truth because they have it hard. Having it hard is just part of life, and you take it with as much grit and good humor as you can.
We need to recapture the sense of wonder and hope which art is supposed to provide us. We’ve had quite enough of weirdos and psychopaths. Maybe my book flops. Doesn’t matter. I’m writing it because it is fun to write…and I’m going to keep on writing it. I just hope that other people will join in – we’ve learned that our experts in most areas are rather dumb. The experts in the arts are no less so. If you’ve got a song in your heart, a story in your mind, a painting that is waiting to be done…do it. After all, the really great art wells up from the people…and perhaps it is time for we, the people, to take back the arts, too.