Have you noticed how most of the novels you read are masterpieces that will stay with you the rest of your life? Have you been mesmerized and dazzled by books that are devastatingly atmospheric, compulsive and irresistible? Seduced by the style and elegance of quick-paced, taut prose? Bewitched by tense and enigmatic storytelling? Tantalized by mystery and suspense? Continue reading
And, we might add, immediately barged their way into the cultural history of the twentieth century. Three thousand words later, Ernest Hemingway’s seminal short story The Killers watches in relief as the two men disappear from the narrative, still intent on killing Ole Andreson, ‘the Swede’, ‘just to oblige a friend’.
In considering the afterlife of stories and how successive versions and adaptations interpret the original for their own times, it can come as a shock to realize just how old The Killers is: it was written in 1927. Yet this tale which appears so closely tied to its particular milieu is extraordinarily amenable to reinterpretation and variation. The Killers is firmly embedded in the small-town America of the mid-1920s, yet it is that very specificity which has rendered it malleable and pertinent to generations of artists. Continue reading
Sometimes seemingly straightforward advice turns out to be more complex than we think. For instance, ‘Write what you know’ always sounds clear and simple. Who would disagree with it? Of course I should write what I know – how could I write what I don’t know? But what do I know?
‘Write what you know’ is actually a little depressing when you think about it. It excludes so much – alternative worlds, characters whom we’ve never met (many of whom we wouldn’t wish to meet), extreme experiences we can feel fortunate never to have undergone – all these things are excluded by ‘Write what you know’. Continue reading