Never Mind Slipping Quietly Into The Room

October 7th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

A cranky old soul left the blogworld. A bitchy new soul entered the blogworld. Somewhere there’s a song about this. Or there will be. We have faith in the collective unconscious.

Bitch Novelist has followed up on her initial promise by taking on the idea of emotional honesty and how maybe it might be, uh, not quite so prevalent in books declared emotionally honest. She takes a hard look at Tobias Wolf’s Old School:

As odd as it sounds for a book so often praised as “profound,” the primary emotion evoked from Old School is Mr. Chip’s style nostalgia. Many of the reviewers who have hyped this novel don’t disagree, but they apparently don’t see any problem with this.

This, after declaring:

One of the basic principles of the careful writer is to detest platitudes, and a less than happy ending is nearly essential for a novel to be taken seriously in our less than happy culture.

She details areas where Wolf, or rather his characters, could have opened up and let loose. But they don’t — this is often a failing in, uh, literary fiction (we really must sit down one night, open a bottle of wine, and come up with a list of fiction categories that don’t make our fingers wince when we type them). You watch the characters move from room to room, knowing that hiding in the floor of the shower is indicative of deeply felt trauma. Or maybe it’s because there’s a fear of thunderstorms. Hard to tell sometimes, and we think we read fairly closely (unless the story has us sleepreading).

Bottom line: emotion is not a bad thing in books, as long as it’s honest (as in true to the character and the situation. Happy endings are not bad things either — unless you really have a warped view of the world.

File Under: Tools and Craft