IF I BELIEVE IN ANYTHING I believe in narration; in telling the story. Not
the tale I know to be true before sitting down to the blank page, but the
legend I discover on the way to the last line. Not the exposition of truth
but the exploration that sets what I know against what I do not yet
The stories I tell are inhabited by characters who want to talk; who
want to tell me everything they know. They are women and men, adults and
children, people of every color and belief. They are liars and truth sayers
and pious criminals who don't understand themselves as doers of evil.
When I meet these characters on the unfinished pages of text I don't
understand them at first. Maybe I never do. I don't know anything about
them except, maybe, their tone of voice or their complaint. Some of my
characters hate others; some become flatulent when they're afraid; others
simply don't care about the things I hold dear--like life.
These characters meet each other and exert their wills and their
obsessions. They eat and fornicate, sometimes they die. There are flashes
from them throughout the text: smiles and sorrows and wishes that you might
recognize out of your own experience.
A good book brings the writer, and later the reader, into a moral
universe that they must come to grips with. This book is vacant of moral
and ethical truth on its own. As the writer I simply wrote the words; I
haven't found answers or delivered any kind of fact.
The truth of a book, of any narrative, is in the mind of the reader.
Each one of them creates their world out of the written word. They use the
stories to comprehend their own lives and relations.
A good book touches you somewhere viscerally; not with a cognitive
image. A good book brings out the feeling of a world and the nature
of particular human beings.
Brings out, not defines.
There's a long journey from the page into the mind of the reader. Colors
change, odors rise up out of the unconscious, the turn of a phrase reminds
a woman of fifty years ago when her father let her down.
These glimmerings and submerged psychological innuendos can make a
powerful statement if the writer has followed one rule: that the writer has
been true to the nature of everything he or she has seen.
Every spaghetti stain, every change of expression, every sigh and every
sign. Every contradiction must have its moment in a novel because, contrary
to what many think, a novel tries to get away from the truth while exulting
in the chaos of human nature.
A domestic isn't merely a servant. He's a man, a sexual being, a hater of
his own class maybe--a creature destined to die. If the writer can see
these simple realities then she will evoke truth; conjure it up out of the
souls and histories of her readers.
A character must never be turned into shorthand in a book. Shorthand
limits the range of the narrative; it strangles the mind. This simple rule
makes the novel the most powerful political tool we have. Because if we are
looking to see, then understanding will arise. If we are following
our senses into the world created by the narrative, then we will find out
new things, we will be opened to the possibility that the world is not what
we thought it was.
And a new world is what we need.
I believe in the world that might be. The world that we share through
imagination and possibility. I believe in that feeling down in the gut that
says, yeah, that's the way it is, when one man dies and another,
maybe less worthy man, crawls from the disaster to keep some forgotten idea
That idea is all we have.