Friday, September 04, 2015

Proust on how to write a great big book

Continuing from last time ... Twelve tips from the master:

1. All this writing and just one book?
“I explained to Albertine that the great men of letters have never created more than a single work ...”

2. The grind gets it done:
“it is not the desire to become famous but the habit of being laborious that enables us to produce a finished work ...”

3. The effort can even be tiring:
“Perhaps some of the greatest masterpieces were written yawning.”

4. Don’t admit to being unoriginal:
“In this book ... there is not a single event which is not fictitious, in which there is not a single personage “a clef”, where I have invented everything to suit the requirements of my presentation ...”

5. Just because I use the first person, doesn’t mean it’s me!
“As soon as she was able to speak she said: “My ——-” or “My dearest ——” followed by my Christian name, which, if we give the narrator the same name as the author of this book, would be ‘My Marcel,’ or ‘My dearest Marcel.’”

6. It’s really about YOU:
“every reader, as he reads, is the reader of himself.”

7. Obsessive writer, obsessive reader:
“the writer, in creating each character, would have to present it from conflicting standpoints so that his book should have solidity, he would have to prepare it with meticulous care, perpetually regrouping his forces as for an offensive, to bear it as a load, to accept it as the object of his life, to build it like a church, to follow it like a régime, to overcome it like an obstacle, to win it like a friendship, to nourish it like a child, to create it like a world, mindful of those mysteries which probably only have their explanation in other worlds, the presentiment of which moves us most in life and in art.”

8. Don’t be preachy-preachy – or at least don’t admit to it:
“that vulgar temptation of an author to write intellectual works. A great indelicacy. A work in which there are theories is like an object upon which the price is marked.”

9. They won’t understand!
“I was soon able to show an outline of my project. No one understood it.”

10. Be your own favourite author:
“I read the article [that I had written] forcing myself to imagine that it was written by some one else. Then all my images, all my reflexions, all my epithets taken by themselves and without the memory of the check which they had given to my intentions, charmed me by their brilliance, their amplitude, their depth.”

11. Just reveal the great universal laws of human nature:
“It is the feeling for the general in the potential writer, which selects material suitable to a work of art because of its generality. He only pays attention to others, however dull and tiresome, because in repeating what their kind say like parrots, they are for that very reason prophetic birds, spokesmen of a psychological law. He recalls only what is general.”

12. And remember, for the publisher it’s all about the money:
“the impenetrable solidity of certain commercial houses, booksellers’ for example or printing presses, where the wretched author will never succeed, notwithstanding the diversity of the persons employed in them, in discovering whether he is being swindled or not.”