"You could get to Hal from where you are."
Do you ever read one of those interviews with writers where you find yourself nodding along, saying to yourself, "Yes! We are kindred creative souls, famous writer! I am better for agreeing with you on almost every point, although my lack of glowing reviews and/or million-dollar book contracts cast our kinship in some doubt"? Have you ever felt that way? Me too. Most recently, while reading this interview with dead sexy satirist George Saunders at Maud Newton's blog. A couple of snippets:
On Not Knowing where the story is going:
[M]y favorite metaphor for the thing you’re talking about is the seed-crystal metaphor. Like in high school biology: you put the thing in water and it starts growing. The key, for me, is that the crystal is not trying to grow in a certain direction, or to make a certain pattern, or because it wants to be a certain kind of Big Crystal when it’s done. It is, I suppose, following some sort of path of least resistance. That is what it feels like, in the best case. I am not trying to do anything in particular, except stumble on something. I don’t know what. Funny is good, tight is good, clever is good — something that, once you’ve put it down, you go: "Well, okay, whatever else happens, I’m pretty sure that’s staying there." Or another way to say this: You feel like the events described in that little bit of prose have just gone from Typing to Something That Happened. It gives off a feeling of undeniability, if you see what I mean. You don’t feel like negotiating at least that little bit of story.
On novels vs. short stories:
[I]n a novel, the whole point is the little constructions along the way . . . a chance to describe a certain household, or a certain while-traveling phenomenon, etc. And the plot is just a way to link these together and, in a sense, "justify" them. In the end, at least in that book, the plot is sort of a red herring. Whereas, in a story, the progression of the plot is what the whole machine is ultimately judged against. You can do the other things — description, dialogue, etc. — but any piece that is inessential to the plot-machine (to the sense that this thing is moving forward, and along a certain thematic track) is felt as extraneous.
(OK, I don't entirely agree with that; but I do think it's true that a novel is built upon measured digressions, and that's sort of what he's saying.)
On realistic expectations:
I’ve known people who started out wanting to fix the world, and when they find out the world can’t be fixed (because in fact it’s not broken) they retreat to a sort of cynical stance. When you think about it, that’s all ego: The world refused to be fixed by me, the center of the universe; therefore I hate the world.
Plus, he reveals that his new collection drops in May. Sweet! Go read.