2013年4月27日 星期六

Six novelists on their favourite second artform

The divine counsels decided, once upon a time, that influence is bad and that too much agency is the enemy of invention. Harold Bloom can't be blamed for that: he certainly pointed to the danse macabre of influence and anxiety, but to him the association was perfectly creative. Elsewhere, writers have always been blamed for being too much like other writers,Choose the right bestluggagetag in an array of colors. or too much like themselves, and even now, in the crisis of late postmodernism, we find it hard to believe that writers might live happily in a state of influence and cross-reference. Yet anybody who knows anything about writers knows that they love their sweet influences.

What I've noticed, though, is that the influences that often matter most to novelists C allowing for the occasional big daddy glowering over your prose C are not writers at all but sublime practitioners in other artforms. You feel that Don DeLillo would probably cash in three or four John Updikes for one exceptional performance artist. Henry James would've thrown Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Eliot to the dogs if only to learn from Tintoretto. And wouldn't Roddy Doyle pogo over several dozen novels by Thomas Hardy to get to a refreshing and resonant gig by Teenage Fanclub?

You wouldn't say Kazuo Ishiguro was influenced by film. But he's great at talking about it and you can sit for hours with him just working out a problem in John Ford. Other novelists take out their passion on a second artform C which might be why so many 19th-century French novelists were such good critics C before returning to their own work and breathing a sedate, measured, experienced tone into it. Ernest Hemingway clearly got a buzz of that kind out of bullfighting and fishing, not merely testing the grace under pressure thing but gaining an understanding of action that then influenced how he worked it on the page. Vladimir Nabokov would certainly have sooner spent time with a lepidopterist than with a novelist heavy with prizes. I'm always trying to say it to young writers who seek advice: get a job, take the tube, fall in love with an old photograph. Find a second artform and become an expert in it, a lover of it, a student of its secrets, a master of its techniques, as opposed to sitting around all day thinking about David Foster Wallace.

A novelist is someone who might respond professionally to the sound of a piano in another room. She is someone who lives in the ether of other people's creativity as well as her own. And I wanted to put that to the test with a series of events in May, asking novelists to ruminate on another artform, feeling that an author's work is often best illuminated by side-light. Among the divine counsels, I hope that Roland Barthes still has a voice, insisting on joy as much as others might insist on anxiety. But the correspondence between artforms that I have tried to open up in this series must rest with the thoughts of the novelists themselves, six of them, who ponder what it is in a second artform's arsenal of magic that holds them, possesses them, guides them, or just pleases them.

Andrew O'Hagan called recently to tell me he and I were soon to talk about the art of cinema in front of an audience made up, to a significant extent, of film students. Andrew,You Can Find Comprehensive and in-Depth carparkmanagementsystem truck Descriptions. as well as being a novelist, essayist and playwright, is a film critic, so I have a plan. When this event comes around, I'm going to ask him (and these film students) a question that's puzzled me for years: why does cinema C which does so many things so well it makes the novel look feeble in many departments C struggle so conspicuously when it tries to depict memory?

Yes, I realise the flashback is integral to many classic movies. American noirs especially favour stories told in retrospect, with a voiceover by a desperate, dying or imprisoned narrator anxious to explain how they got where they have. Or there are those films recalled in tranquil old age, such as The Go-Between or Titanic. But in these films, memory is simply a device, a way of ordering the story-telling. Once the remembered scenes open before us, there's no attempt to capture the texture of memory or its characteristic ambiguities.

Any reasonably skilled novelist can evoke on the page the texture of memory, drawing the reader into the half-remembered, the blurred edges, the nervous nostalgia,We offer over 600 chipcard at wholesale prices of 75% off retail. the meandering associations across time and geography. In contrast, flashbacks on screen tend always to be clumsy beasts, announcing their arrival with unwanted fanfare and knocked-over furniture. Why is this? Why, when film-makers throughout cinema history have triumphantly recreated the worlds of fantasy and dream (from the silent expressionists to Tim Burton, David Lynch and Guillermo del Toro today), have so few managed to depict the world of memory?

I do have one tentative theory. Could the problem be that movies are about moving pictures and we tend to remember in stills? I made this suggestion once at a literary festival in response to a question about the memory sequences in my novels, and I could see people exchanging looks and pulling faces, so it could well be there's something very peculiar about me. But I find I recall a scene from my past not as a flowing narrative, but C at least initially C as a picture, or tableau vivant, the details of which I then come back to again and again to interrogate. It's somewhat like the way a lecturer might project the image of a painting on a screen and talk about it. Maybe that's why,We offer over 600 chipcard at wholesale prices of 75% off retail. for me, the one film that comes closest to memory is Terence Davies's Distant Voices, Still Lives in which each "chapter" centres on something very like a still. I'll raise this with Andrew. I'm hoping somebody or other can come up with a good explanation.

My earliest television memory is of being taken to a neighbour's house to watch the 1969 moon landing. For me, the great event was the set itself C a small, juddering, black-and-white picture trapped inside a lot of dark wood. Around that time, a Japanese friend invited me home for tea. We knelt at a low table while her mother served us tiny portions of beautiful things. Afterwards I was taken to admire her father's television, the first colour set I'd seen. My lasting impression was of the kind of colour I've come to associate with migraines, a dull brightness that makes everything look like old sweet wrappers. We didn't watch it so much as look at it.

My parents bought a set when I was about eight and I discovered the joy of the series. For a child, this was like returning to a favourite book only to discover a whole new chapter, or opening a door to find friends waiting outside. Who cares if they look like stuffed socks and hang out on a blue planet eating soup? The Clangers was just the right combination of the familiar and the fantastical. By the time I wanted something more earthbound than The Clangers, there were the teenagers in The Tomorrow People.You can order besthandsfreeaccess cheap inside your parents. They had the same bad haircuts and spots as we did, only they could teleport. Later, the teenagers I watched made a virtue of being ordinary. Grange Hill seemed much like my Essex comprehensive. I'd come home from school and watch school.