Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, April 5, 2014

You can teach writing--assuming a talent.

You can teach [writing]—assuming a talent. At the beginning young writers pour it out without much knowing the nature of their talent. What you try to do is hold a mirror up to their fiction so, in a sense, they can see what they’re showing. Not all who come forth are fully armed. Some are gifted in narrative, some shun it. Some show a richness of metaphor, some have to dig for it. Some writers think language is all they need; they mistake it for subject matter. Some rely on whimsy. Some on gut feeling. Some of them don’t make the effort to create a significant form. They do automatic writing and think they’re probing themselves. The odd thing is, most young writers write traditional narrative until you introduce them to the experimental writers—not for experiment’s sake, but to try something for size. Let the writer attempt whatever he can. There’s no telling where he will come out stronger than before. Art is in life, but the realm is endless.

—Bernard Malamud