Books Magazine


By T.v. Locicero

In my last post…

I offered some thoughts on the currently heated discussion of genre versus literary fiction and said I’d look at the experience of constructing my own novels.

So I did not begin with any such intentions, but it turns out that my novel The Obsession is a kind of hybrid, a cross between a psychological and a literary thriller, with elements of crime, mystery and suspense.  I simply set out to tell the story in my head, and this is the way it came out. To my mind there is nothing particularly innovative, groundbreaking or original about its methods, shape or purpose. Again, it was just the story I wanted to tell.

The three main characters all interested me enough that I gave each of them a point of view, in more or less alternating chapters and using what’s called the close third person. I wanted to dig deep into each, to present something of where they come from, how they think and see the world, and of course at least a little of what causes them to do what they do.

Sometimes accomplishing this, presenting information about each of these three people, may slow the action down and force the reader to wait a bit longer to learn about what happens next. But many writers, setting out on the more or less crazy endeavor of penning a novel, struggle with and worry over the tension between depth of character and narrative pace. Finally, you make your choices and live with the result.

And by the way, I also had no intention of writing a trilogy. One of the first people to read The Obsession, an old lit prof of mine, said he wanted to know what happened to certain characters after the story ended. So I started thinking about that and soon came up with outlines for two more novels, one of which, The Dissappearance, I’ve written and published. The third, The Tryst, I’m about to start.

Beyond the classic novelists we all read in school…

Dostoyevsky was the one who grabbed me most often. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by the old Russian giant. In the decades since school, I have returned most often to Vonnegut, Bellow, Malamud, Roth, Le Carre, Simenon, Highsmith, Oates, Leonard, Furst, Rendell, Grisham, McEwan, and Amis.

An eclectic bunch, each read for his/her particular passions, pleasures and perspectives, astonishing skills, charm and wisdom, but it would be presumptuous to claim even that I’ve learned from any of them.

All I can say is that I have flat out loved books by each of them, and that what I do when I’m writing is to keep working and re-working, polishing and polishing again, until I at least like, and on rare occasions, love what I have written.

Readers have a basic hunger for knowing how the world works…

And I suspect that’s true even for those who say they read mostly to escape their troubled or hackneyed corner of the universe. We’re all looking for insight and meaning in all of life’s infinite variety. Sooner or later we decide if a writer has a clear and penetrating gaze, with a view as narrow as a laser or as broad as a flood light, and finally whether reading this book provides a special kind of pleasure.

Does the novelist give us that wonderful sense that she will miss nothing, that he possesses a mind so knowing that it comprehends in a flash and cuts to the essence in an instant? How about an ear so acute that it will capture, recall and make good use of the subtle, revealing nuances of everyday speech?

Does the author have a keen, knowing wit?

A deft way with language that will often please and surprise us with just the right word or phrase, a combination that provides not only delight but helps us see something common in our everyday life in a new way, thus giving it a new meaning?

In short, we ultimately ask ourselves, is she or he a writer who can help us discover a little bit more about what’s important in life and give us a resonating joy in the process?

The question of what genre we might be reading at that moment may well seem beside the point.

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