Saturday, February 12, 2011

Martin Amis is Kind of an Ass -- in this case, a snobby, boring one...

Here's what's got people all fired up -- the link to the Huffington Post's report on Martin Amis' comment:

"If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book, but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you're directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable ... I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write."

I can't help but laugh. It strikes me as funny. And I love that he said this aloud -- it's something so many writers believe (including an earlier version of myself). And, too, the irony. Doesn't Amis have some kind of serious brain issue that makes him say things like this aloud? (Check out the link on Huff Po of other Amis-isms.)

The world building of my kid books versus the suburban dissolution of my adult books? Which one requires a higher register? Neither. They require different registers. That's all.

And ... all writers are conscious of audience on some level, aren't we? Here, Amis and I can disagree. My own writing goes best when I feel I'm whispering a story urgently into the reader's ear. Just one reader. One person. That's when I feel the most freedom, actually.

Amis' audience may well be a grown-up Amis -- which, if so, may be why he isn't aware of audience; he plays both parts so expertly he doesn't even know he's doing it -- but he knows who he is, one would assume.

I kind of like this image of Amis as the center of his own writing world.

Amis whispers.

Amis listens.

I wish I knew his work well enough to enjoy this image with real juice. I don't.

The bottom line is that writing for adults is a constraint. One that I sometimes grow weary of. I also get weary of writing for children. Constructing worlds entails (high-register) heavy lifting. And, too, there are things I want to say to adults. Things that look rather pale and small and petty when compared to world building.

I tell kids not to read my adult novels -- not because of some of the sexy material (I don't mention that because it would only incite) -- but because it would bore them to tears. Talk about a lower register for kid readers -- my adult characters fix up houses in Provence, talk on deck chairs late at night, spend time describing their food and wine ... plus sex and death.

But let's say that you don't imagine anyone will ever read what you're writing -- and further that you're not writing in first person (if so, your character is usually imagining some kind of listener so even if you, as author, aren't; your narrator, as character, is. Lolita ...) -- the demands for adult versus kid audiences are different, but neither is less brutal.

Writing for kids requires (for me, at least) an untethering of the brain, allowing for wildness. In both genres, there exist some true works of art.

Anyway, I'm glad Amis said what so often goes unsaid. Honestly, I don't really care about the argument -- as a reader or a writer. It bores me ...

because of the image I'm left with this morning ... a serious brain injury ... sometimes reading great writers feels like you're glimpsing perhaps an injured or simply a very different kind of brain, the synapses firing madly in their own particularly twisted ways of seeing, creating, translating our human experience. And when that happens, I don't care who their intended audience is, I want to read it.