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Salman Rushdie Irks Me (1 Viewer)

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Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I'm irked at Salman Rushdie. I had no time today to read a short story. But I picked up the latest issue of the New Yorker and inside was a relatively lengthy Rushdie story, "The Old Man in the Piazza." I couldn't resist. I read it beginning to end and it held me tight all the way. Very few writers can hold me that enthralled. But Rushdie can do it.

So why am I irked at him? Because he shows me how much hard work I will have to do to if I hope to become a writer as talented as he is. It most likely will never happen, either. Actually, I don't dream of being that talented. I pretty well know my limits. But I do love how Rushdie puts a story together. He's just extraordinary at this writing game.

Do any writers affect you this way?
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Every single day.

That's your anxiety. It drives you towards the goal and confirms you are human.

If you had no potential of being great, you wouldn't feel anxious about it, because there'd be no point.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
It is natural to witness skill and wonder at our aptitude to approach that level. It happens to me with the piano. I took lessons as a kid and can play modestly, if you don't mind mistakes here and there. ;-) I own a grand we inherited from my inlaws, and a nice Yamaha keyboard which will play about 200 instrument voices. I have good incentive to learn more and play more. Then I listen to a concert pianist, or even a great pop pianist like Roger Williams. I find entertainment along with a dollop of despair, because I will NEVER approach their skill.

The reason I won't is that I'm not going to practice for eight hours a day, every day, to achieve what they did. But writing? Writing takes a lot of learning and practice, but writing well is achievable. We get as many do-overs as we want with QWERTY as opposed to FACE and EGBDF. :) (For people who have never been music students, those are the mnemonics to remember the spaces and lines in the treble clef when reading sheet music ... Every Good Boy Does Fine). There are more writing virtuosos in a generation than piano virtuosos, so we face better odds, and don't need the mechanical skills (dexterity) which musicians require. Yeah, I can type 90 words a minute, but no one else sees the red underline when I miss a key.

I've written elsewhere that my biggest competition is myself. I read back over the last scenes or chapter when I resume a project, and if I really like it, I wonder, "How did I do that, and can I do it again?" But I do ... do it again. Over the last year in particular I've gotten feedback from neutral sources which builds confidence.

Here is what separates us writers from the piano virtuoso. They CAN NOT approach the keyboard with doubt, They MUST approach it with confidence in a public performance. (Yes, this is individually disputable). As writers, I think some doubt feeds our desire to learn, and to regard our last sentence with an eye for how we can improve it. That doubt is a strength, not a liability. I don't want to get to the point where I think everything I've just typed is gold, because then I might not revise with the same critical eye I use now.

So to answer your concluding question: EVERY good writer affects me that way ... even myself on my good days. ;-)
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Do any writers affect you this way?

Yes, Rudyard Kipling. The story structure is outstanding. The language is getting a bit dated in places, but that's okay, I'm a bit dated myself. But also the range of things he covers. Kim, one of my all time favourite books, a tale of treachery, intrigue, poverty and the Great Game, all mixed up with a holly man and a horse trader. Puck of Pooks Hill and Rewards and Fairies, reasonably accurate history (You have to remember when it was written0 made personal for children, with a good slice of magic thrown in. The Just So Stories, for the younger best beloved ones, some wonderful phrasing in there 'The great grey green greasy Limpopo river' where the elephant got his nose, and anyone who has shared their house with a cat will understand 'I am the cat that walks by itself. Plain Tales from the Hills, great character studies from the community in Simla. He writes to enthrall all readers from the youngest to the eldest, and even though he did it over a hundred years ago his characters still seem real. The only point he falls down for me is in his later life, he won the Nobel prize for literature but was still looked down upon as a 'popular' writer by the early twentieth century literary establishment. He would have liked recognition of that sort and some of his later short stories feel a bit forced, as though he is trying too hard to please a particular audience, but at his best he is magnificent. Oh, and don't forget the poetry, there is a lot of that and although the sentiments are of his time his view is not. As my daughter observed about Gunga Din "It sounds racist, but actually he really liked him didn't he?". 'East is East and West is West and ne'er the twain shall meet' is him, but read it to the end where 'Two strong men stand face to face' and he shows he is completely aware of our shared humanity.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I guess Alice Munro makes a mockery of my work. She starts with a base that is clear and minimal, but her prose jumps into flourishes in ways that aren't distracting. She renders "mundane" characters in a way that is captivating and I couldn't tell you how. If a lesser writer tried to write such "everyday" characters I'd want to slap them in the face. She seamlessly inserts complex ideas into her prose which also capture the most sentimental human experiences.

Apparently, she has some kind of fancy prize. Now, normally, I wouldn't give a damn what well-connected and powerful people have to say. But Alice Munro deserves the decorations.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
Of course, I'm inspired by wonderful writing and amazingly talented authorsCarver, Cheever, Munro, O'Conner, Steinbeckthe list goes on. But I'm not very good at putting my finger on just what makes them so great[FONT=Roboto, arial, sans-serif]. [/FONT]To me, it's enigmaticdespite my analysis (or anyone else's) so I don't spend much time comparing myself to them or beating myself up because I fall short. It's a waste of energy.

Ultimately, if someone reads my work and they think it was time well spent, I'm good with that. If they feel anything morethat's gravy. Like Clint Eastwood said in the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, "A man's gotta know his limitations..."
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
It's interesting reading all your comments. Yes, if we didn't have the heights we wouldn't know how far we have to climb (or how much work we have to do to reach or even approach the heights). I think the Rushdie story that held me in thrall was another instance of outstanding magical realism. One thing he did was make our language a character in the story and that was an effective storytelling strategy. (Our language is always at work, always with us, if we try to communicate, so making it an actual character to show how it was affected by the events taking place in the story was a great idea.)

Yes, vranger, I also think my greatest competition is with myself. And your comment about a piano virtuoso who much face his/ her audience with confidence is something I tend to worry about in my writing-- I always feel a little lack of confidence and I'd like to learn to put that more in the background than I do.

So many good writers mentioned-- Munro, Kipling (of which I've read very little and from Olly Buckle's description I likely will enjoy his work), Carver, Cheever, O'Connor, Steinbeck. So many.

Two other outstanding writers who have this effect on me are Eduardo Galeano and Lydia Davis. I've purchased three collections of work from each one of them and I never grow tired of their fascinating ideas and their ways of presenting their ideas.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I think I can do the narration inside dialogue as well as anyone except Stephenie Meyer, but I just can't capture what she does. I just gave up. Same for John Hart with metaphors and Rowling with characters, though I will not give up. But it's not that annoying, ultimately, because I get better just trying to come close.

For punctuation and grammar . . . No matter how beyond-me-genius an author was to think of an idea, it's not impossible to copy. But a few paragraphs are beyond me. Mafi and MacLaughlin & Kraus come to mind.
 
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