Monday, October 18, 2010

Is it a novel?

There's a new review for Too Many Magpies in the magazine Front&Centre. Interestingly, although the reviewer was clearly engaged by the book in the end, he seems to have struggled initially, mainly because he says that knowing that I'm also a playwright gave him misleading expectations. What tripped him up was the internal nature of the book. In a play, where we observe characters from the outside, we are often aware of meanings and implications that remain a puzzle to the characters, and it was a while before he realized that in Too Many Magpies we are meant to share the protagonist's puzzlement and sense of mystery.

It set me thinking. People often ask me if I know from the start whether a piece of writing is going to be a play or a novel, and I do, and this clarifies to some extent why: it's very much to do with the perspective. Too Many Magpies is about not only uncertainty, but the experience of uncertainty which I wanted the reader to share, and so that's how it came to me: as an interior first-person narration, ie a novel, and it just couldn't have been anything else.

There's another curious thing about this review. So many reviews of this book have called the prose spare, yet this reviewer calls it 'oft-florid'. It seems to me that it would be pretty difficult to be both. In fact my aim in writing is always to be vivid and often visual (which is perhaps what leads to florid?) while striving at all times for economy and concision (which is probably what makes people call it spare) - which seems to give rise to some very opposite descriptions of my prose!

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