I never want to read anything again that doesn’t begin with, “And a shot rang out,” Kingsley Amis is reputed to have said to his son, Martin. In my memory it has something to do with the appearance of The Rachel Papers, but I don’t have the Martin Amis autobiography handy to check.
I think about it now and then.
The night before last, a friend and I talk about Nam Le and his story collection, “The Boat”. I haven’t read it yet but I want to, and she asks me to go get it so we can talk about it. The first story is about a Vietnamese writer at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. It’s also contains something of a critique of ethnic lit. I liked the excerpt from the New York Times.
“It’s a license to bore,” my friend said. We were drunk and walking our bikes because both of us, separately, had punctured our tires on the way to the party.
“The characters are always flat, generic. As long as a Chinese writer writes about Chinese people, or a Peruvian writer about Peruvians, or a Russian writer about Russians …” he said, as though reciting children’s doggerel, then stopped, losing his train of thought. His mouth turned up into a doubtful grin. I could tell he was angry about something.
“Look,” I said, pointing at a floodlit porch ahead of us. “Those guys have guns.”
“As long as there’s an interesting image or metaphor once in every this much text” — he held out his thumb and forefinger to indicate half a page, his bike wobbling all over the sidewalk. I nodded to him, and then I nodded to one of the guys on the porch, who nodded back. The other guy waved us through with his faux-wood air rifle. A car with its headlights on was idling in the driveway, and girls’ voices emerged from inside, squealing, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
“Faulkner, you know,” my friend said over the squeals, “he said we should write about the old verities. Love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”
Via the NYTimes.