Betty Duffy

Monday, April 2, 2012


Been reading: John Gardner, "The Art of Fiction."

Have learned that a lot of the problems I encounter in my writing, are actually problems with my personal character--as in, I'm too "Frigid" to empathize with characters that I create, to take the time to feel their emotions and imagine what they would say, think or do. Which is probably why I write mostly autobiography, or fictionalized autobiography, which comes across as third person limited narrative--which Gardner says is a sentimental and narcissistic narrative voice.

I'm mad at Gardner, but I think he's right. He gets at a problem I've long sensed in my own writing and in others'--that in order to write better, I need to be a better person. Also, that some writing is irredeemable, and that any amount of practice on the part of the author would do nothing to better it, because there is some inherent character flaw in the author herself, either lack of education, lack of internal rhythm, lack of empathy, lack of so many other possible traits, that prevents her from having the godlike authority that authorship requires.

So much more to say about this book. Fortunately, character is changeable. I started reading Gardner a couple years ago and didn't understand half of what he was talking about. This time around, I feel as though he's speaking to me personally in every chapter. Perhaps my character has changed some since the last time I attempted to read it.

Another review here.

Darwin breaks it down for the man people of the internet again.

Rejoicing with Pentimento at the arrival of her adopted son, Jude!

New book blog here, Bookish Catholics.

They've been reading Lizzie's War--a favorite of mine. And next up, Heather King. A blog to watch.

Thoroughly enjoying Amy Welborn's memoir, Wish You Were Here. Much more to say about it, when I'm finished...touching, deep, thoughtful, far...

From Charming Disarray: Why I don't call myself a feminist.

I expect to add more links here as the week goes on. I've been on my way out the door almost perpetually since last Friday.

Happy Holy Week!

Almost forgot...My column at Patheos this week: Giving Up Nouns for Lent. This one's familiar if you've read the blog for a long time.

I tried to come up with something new--about how difficult it is to give up sweets for Lent--but it was stupid, and I was on vacation.


Julia said...

Hmmm. Maybe that's why I don't write fiction.

Loved, loved, loved Amy's book. Had my (Lutheran) dad read it, and he's buying a copy to give to a semi-agnostic widow he knows because he thought it would help her!

Sally Thomas said...

I think I need to read that Gardner book.

Matthew Lickona said...

That "art begins in a wound" bit I am forever citing is from Gardner's On Moral Fiction. I think well of him. On the other hand, his attack on Percy was, well, questionable.

BettyDuffy said...

what I'm gathering on Gardner is that no one feels indifferent to him. His opinions on fiction are polarizing. But I really like to read criticism--maybe more than reading novels. I tried to read his novel, Grendel--and couldn't stand it.

Kimberlie said...

I will have to read Gardner. I started writing a novel, mostly to see if I could get that many words on paper, but the longer I go along, the more I want it to actually be good. Does that make sense? I mean, I feel more emotionally invested in it. At first I was like "well, it won't be any good but it will be a good exercise and I can cross it off my bucket list." Then I started the writing process and I thought, "this plot idea is pretty good. I wish I could actually do a good job with this." I think it might actually take me five years because I will probably write this story 6 or 7 times. Hopefully improving each time. :)

Lisa said...

I love that you linked Bookish Catholics-- one of my dear friends is a member, and I'm secretly hoping that I will soon join their little circle!

Emily J. said...

I don't know if you need to improve your character to write well. Don't you tend to think most artistic geniuses are narcissistic and slightly insane? Perhaps to write well what you really need to do is to become more selfish. . .

BettyDuffy said...

There you go, Em. That's what I wanted to hear.

Lauren Gulde said...

Thanks for posting our Bookish Catholics blog link! We're having such fun. Lizzie's War was quite a way to start out. Everyone loved it. And then Tim Farrington emailed us! Whew.

Now we're on to Shirt of Flame by Heather King, which is perfect for Lent and Easter. Please feel free to read along and comment!