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Friday, June 24, 2005

Banville Bashing

From The London Line ("London's Alternative Newspaper"), Sean Walsh's five steps to writing the Literary Novel:

1. Themes

All literary novels are sensitive reflections on memory and identity. They can perhaps "be deeply concerned with" ("about") sex, death, or history, but make sure you've got memory and identity covered. The Sea deals with memory, identity and death. In fact, it's a sensitive reflection on them.

2. Unreliable narrator
You won't need a plot for your LN - plots are vulgar - but make sure there's an unreliable narrator. Banville's narrators even unreliably admit their own unreliability. Nice!

3. Hazy character motivation
You can also have people doing stuff for no reason. Book groups are an important demographic for the LN, and they need something to argue about. Or is it that the unknowability of motivation is central to our experience of others? Who can tell?

4. Meaningful names
In The Sea there is a family called the Graces. Religious subtext perhaps? Mrs. Grace is figured as a Goddess, Mr. Grace as a satyr - a dark confluence of the Christian and pagan? Or a reference to Are You Being Served?

5. Hard words
Remember, you're aiming for a prose style that'll be called "sensuous" or "lyrical". Why not use the word "flocculent"? It means "like tufts of wool". Eventually you'll win the Booker, and you can sell your shopping lists to an American university for millions. Good luck!


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