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Plane reading

I read all of Rust Hills' Writing in general and the short story in particular on the plane. Then I went on to read about half of Wilkie Collins' The moonstone, which I've been meaning to read for ages. I'd recommend it, because it's fun. (I went all Victorian packing books for this trip: Conan-Doyle, Collins, and Carroll. And Guns, germs, and steel, another been-meaning-to-read book.)

The juxtaposition was interesting. Rust Hills spends some time attacking the monologue as a problematic fictional technique. And then Collins goes all monologue-y and first-person account-y, and of course it's successful and entertaining. But Hills hates genre fiction and looks down on the techniques SF and mysteries use to achieve their effects. Hills and I are out of sympathy on the important points. I love genre fiction, and am sick to death of anemic New Yorker stories with their over-subtle Joycean epiphanies over tea. Yes, a story needs a moment of change to be a story not a sketch, but I think the change can be external and not just in character. That is, I think blowing up the high school library counts, as well as Schaeffer figuring out that the Puppeteer world has no moon and successfully blackmailing them. I think Hills would disapprove of both events as being too concrete.

Hill still says useful things about some issues of technique. And he's correct about the basic nature of the short story as closer to lyric poetry than to the novel. He spends a lot of time reacting to somebody's Henry James-inspired thinking that point of view is the single most important aspect of story, which is obviously a silly idea. One wonders what happened to these people's common sense.

I think I'm done with books on writing for another decade or so.
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