Monday, 3 October 2011

Question about the Tone of Future Novels: Will the Current Mess Have and Effect on What People Will Write 40 Years from Now

Interesting conversation between Colm Toibín and Jeffrey Eugenides in The New York Times yesterday. Both of them have new books out, hence the public chit chat about writing. But perhaps the most striking thing about their thoughts is the way they end up talking about the emotion that underlies their writing.

Toibin says: Something of the tone of the inner novelist comes out as he fills the blank page or computer "our dreams and lies and inventions...I know what happens to me: I go all sad. You, however, have a way of creating undertones and overtones of comedy, as though you are always about to burst out laughing, when you write a scene, even if the scene includes suicide, war, riots or lost love. I have tried to copy this and failed."

To which Eugenides says: "I think it comes down to our childhoods. Mine was happy. I think your childhood was less happy, which is why memory “haunts” you. Maybe that’s what you’re hearing in the undertones of my writing: my happy American childhood."

Eugenides, please note, grew up in Detroit when it was the center of the automobile universe, while Toibin is from Ireland which for a long, long period was economically depressed. I can't imagine that current aspiring writers in Motor City are having the same kind of experience as Eugenides did. As for the young Irish, after a boom, things are bust: what kind of repercussions will that have on the fledgling writers there?

Stay tuned for several decades to find out.

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