The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We're increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism.
I think for a long time, I was paralyzed by some of my hopes and ideals for what my life was going to be like. I had this perfect vision of how my life should go, but it seemed - it was - impossible to realize, so I sat around for a long, long time doing almost nothing at all.
It's very important, at least to me as a writer, that there be some rules on the table when I'm writing. Rules come from genres. You're writing in a genre, there are rules, which is great because then you can break the rules. That's when really exciting things happen.
It was strange to be naked in front of anybody. It was like that cold water out there in the bay: scary, you didn’t think you could stand it, but then you plunged in and pretty soon you got used to it. There was enough hiding in life. Sometimes you just wanted to show somebody your tits.
One already feels like an anachronism, writing novels in the age of what-ever-this-is-the-age-of, but touring to promote them feels doubly anachronistic. The marketplace is showing an increasing intolerance for the time-honored practice of printing information on paper and shipping it around the country.
Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.
That’s what death did, it treated you like a child, like everything you had ever thought and done and cared about was just a child’s game, to be crumpled up and thrown away when it was over. It didn’t matter. Death didn’t respect you. Death thought you were bullshit, and it wanted to make sure you knew it.
She still had her bad days, no question, when the black dog of depression sniffed her out and settled its crushing weight on her chest and breathed its pungent dog breath in her face. On those days she called in sick to the IT shop where, most days, she untangled tangled networks for a song. On those days she pulled down the shades and ran dark for twelve or twenty-four or seventy-two hours, however long it took for the black dog to go on home to its dark master.
Nothing is wrong with you. You're not different. Everybody feels as bad as you do: this is just what writing a novel feels like. To write a novel is to come in contact with raw, primal feelings, hopes and longings and psychic wounds, and try to make a big public word-sculpture out of them, and that is a crazy hard thing to do.
The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.
Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don't do it for money. That's not what it's about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They're fans, but they're not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.
When I was 35 I realized that I was still thinking a lot about what it would be like to go to Narnia. To really go - not just in a daydream, or in a children's book, but what it would actually feel like, physically, psychologically, every other way. The idea was haunting me.
In our world no one ever knows what to do, and everyone's just as clueless and full of crap as everyone else, and you have to figure it all out by yourself. And even after you've figured it out and done it, you'll never know whether you were right or wrong. You'll never know if you put the ring in the right volcano, or if things might have gone better if you hadn't.
I've only read three books by Stephen King. When I was 10 I read 'The Long Walk,' one of his pseudonymous Bachman books. In my early 20s, while trapped on a family vacation, I read 'The Dark Half,' which taught me a word I have never forgotten: psychopomp. Now I have read '11/22/63.'
I always hated those fantasy books where, at the end, all the kids had to go home. At the end of a Narnia book, you always got shown the door. Same with The Wizard Of Oz and The Phantom Tollbooth. You get kicked out of your magic land. It's like, "By the way, here's your next surprise: You get to go home!" And the kids are all like, "Yay, we get to go home!" I never bought that. Did anybody buy that?
Every year the literary press praises dozens if not hundreds of novels to the skies, asserting explicitly or implicitly that these books will probably not be suffering water damage in the basements of their authors' houses 20 years from now. But historically, anyway, that's not the way the novelistic ecology works.