The Transcendent Novelist (??)

In her book, Anybody Can Write, author Jean Bryant suggests that a manuscript needs something beyond being well-written and interesting.  It needs startranscendence.

Transcendence usually arises out of personal conviction or passion: the essential being of the writer is invested in the work.  A clear intention, plus a sense of your audience, coupled with a sense of necessity that you, the writer, share this in written form, set the stage for transcendence.  It is a quality which evolves from interaction with the subject.  It can seldom be plotted or planned, or it will feel contrived to editors and readers alike.

She goes on to quote the New Yorker:

transcendence  One of the characteristics of transcendence is care without which high quality is unattainable.  Care is itself an artistic statement that expresses love.  For example, a novelist who chooses compassion for his subject but then draws his characters sloppily really expresses contempt.  On the other hand, a novelist who writes about underworld violence but takes the time and expends the energy to bring his characters, good and bad, into being performs an act of love, a gratuitous act of caring, which stirs love in the reader as well and becomes the true statement — one could even say action — of the novel.

The ability of the novel to uncover the sanctity of every person, no matter how debased, and also to reveal the miraculousness, the preciousness of the transcendencehumblest details of life is what makes the writing and reading of novels a humanistic enterprise of great importance….(The New Yorker, March 15, 1982)

Our era seems to want facts, non-fiction. The above quote suggests there’s more to life than ‘the facts.’

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9 responses to “The Transcendent Novelist (??)

  1. Alas, Ed, the quote is from 1982 before there was a computer in every home, before we became hell bent on going down the road of what Thomas Power cofounder of that powerful site Ecademy calls ‘singulariity’, where humans will merge with machines. He’s even got a rough date for it – 2045, one generation away. If it’s true, and I’ve long suspected it is, we are going to lose a great deal. Machines convey information, they can’t convey imagination because they don’t have it. Already, in my lifetime, I am seeing imagination being gradually leached out of the race. A pity, I think. It was one of the few things that humans did better than machines.
    Another whinge, I fear. (Didn’t realise, by the way, how local that word was.)
    Best for the season,

  2. Hi Ed,
    I read somewhere that as writers we should not write, “the woman screamed”. Rather we should let her scream in our writing…
    You bring this concept out so clearly.

  3. Pingback: How to survive your mate writing a novel… | Naked and Hopeful·

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