September 13, 2012 @ 4:13 pm
Since we're talking about writing this week (when my son's lizard finally eats that damn chirping cricket and I get ten minutes of silence to record my in-between bits), I want to point out this very cool interview with Michael Chabon. I haven't read the new book, and I'm up and down on Chabon. Gentlemen of the Road, where he tried to channel Fafrd and the Grey Mouser into Jews, scamming their way around central Asia in the 10th century, was not good. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, on the other hand, while plot-obvious in a way that genre books usually are, was an absolute joy to read because of the language. No book that I can think of has made me laugh as many times.
As you listen to the interview, notice how Chabon talks about tinkering or fiddling with sentences, collections of words that can be mutated by trading out individual words, selecting them with a purpose in mind. He calls it a container, but it could just as easily be called an environmental niche. It has a specific shape in some fairly high-dimensional literary parameter space. What he's doing is optimizing each sentence, and groups of sentences, to fit that imagined shape, to create some emotional effect, like the laughter that YPU caused in me. Starting with twenty-six letters and a couple million words, there are almost infinitely many possible sentences, many of which he has tried out and found boring, or icky, or whatever the label is that means they don't fit the shape. Those he thinks of exist at least momentarily in his brain, but he doesn't write them down. Or he does, and then his editor convinces him to cut them.
Very evolutionary, if you ask me. And you kinda did, by clicking on the link that brought you here.
Very sad about Coen Brothers not making YPU right this very minute!