Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Notes for a Commonplace Book (8)

From an interview with Harry Mathews:


Did Ashbery introduce you to any writers whose work you did read?


Yes, thanks to John I began reading Raymond Roussel. Roussel had methodical approaches to writing fiction that completely excluded psychology. In the American novel, what else is there? If you don't have psychology, people don't see the words on the page. What was really holding me up was this idea that you had to have character development, relationships, and that this was the substance of the novel. Indeed, it is the substance of many novels, including extraordinary ones. But I had tried writing works involving psychology and characters and all that, and the results were terrible. In Roussel I discovered you could write prose the way you do poetry. You don’t approach it from the idea that what you have to say is inside you. It's a materialist approach, for want of a better word. You make something. You give up expressing and start inventing.

From "Harry Mathews, The Art of Fiction No. 191," interview conducted by Susannah Hunnewell. Print version in The Paris Review No. 180 (Spring 2007).

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