Saturday, August 02, 2008

Elementary Causation

A couple of brief thoughts. I checked out the book "Fall of Frost" by Brian Hall, purported to be a fictional rendition of the life of the poet, Robert Frost. It is interesting to see what gets published these days - interesting, when I can take a break from being depressed. It was one of these vignette type books, with vignettes dating from widely different periods of the poet's life, skipping around. Which led to the melancholy reflection: what happened to narrative? I could not and did not want to read this book, but only skimmed it - an act appropriate, it seems, to this kind of "literature."

It seems to me that if a writer intends to abandon structural narrative, he better have something pretty darn good to put in its place, otherwise he comes across as a postmodernist sneer machine. I was also irritated by the usual bookjacket blurbs "confirming Hall's status as one of the most talented novelists at work today."

An effective use of the time-shift is Russell Kirk's story, "An Encounter at Mortstone Pond" - the delineation of character is strong and the emotional linkage is prepared well in advance. But "one of our most talented novelists at work today" cannot be bothered with emotional and character delineation.

A good fiction writer has the duty of strengthening the reader's grip on reality. Life is not lived in skipped-across incidents. How can this author get away with the pretence of writing a writer's life?