Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The novel writer

How a novel writer has got to be:
     insatiably curious about other people,
     how life is actually lived by other, unrelated, distinct persons
     inquisitive about customs, manners, morals
     must search, must possess, must note, must absorb, must master how things go on
     have the power to bring another social world into existence like it was really there
     devoted to "the sheer polyglossia" of the lexicon (ain't I though?)
     know how the different classes use language
     know something about the language of work & working
     know how language has changed and does change
     To a novelist that's also a poet, incoherence is an anguish of peculiar magnitude. "Make it cohere."

     --Notes from Ardyth Kennelly's commonplace book, from reading Helen Vendler's review of Elizabeth Bishop's Collected Prose in The New York Review of Books, Feb. 16, 1984.

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