In the recent issue of The New York Review of Books, there's a review of the new Coetzee novel, Diary of a Bad Year. At some point, the essayist quotes from the book:
"To write a novel you have to be like Atlas, holding up a whole world on your shoulders and supporting it there for months and years while its affairs work themselves out."
The essayist (Hilary Mantel) notes: "The stage in life is reached when a writer of fiction is no longer content to show off to others, but needs to engage with personal and urgent questions of his own: how to live, how to die. But because of who he is, he must work them out in the public realm, on the page."
For me, the novels that engage, that call me repeatedly, are those that contain a character(s) who grapples with such questions; there is an inner migration to sort out the way to live, to be. Ultimately, though, to be walking around like Atlas, supporting the world for years (often many years), why wouldn't a writer want to ponder the questions most dear? I'm reminded of Kundera who says a novel is a question. (and I'm reminded, a good novel isn't going to answer the posited questions, only raise more questions).
Causes Nina Schuyler Supports
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