My inspiration today comes from yet another piece written in ripple-effect response to the James Frey debacle. It is courtesy of The New York Times op-ed page, an essay written by Julia Glass, who won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002. Its pull-out teaser asks, “Why have we forsaken the novel for the memoir?”
I love the piece. It puts the argument into a societal perspective, analyzing the merits of each genre. But what I really love, right now, is what it says to me as the writer of fiction. This book I am writing is new terrain for me, who made a 15-year living writing non-fiction.
“Fiction, wholly extravagant, magnifies [reality] and gives it moral shape,” Glass writes. “Fiction has no practical purpose. Fiction, after all, is art.”
The writing of this book is heady and exhilarating as it is daunting in its challenges. The work ahead stands before me and taunts me sometimes. And yet I know at my core this is going to be a fine, fine piece of art.
Glass writes, “A good novel is an out-of-self experience. It lifts you off the ground so that you have the sensation of flying. It says, Look at the world around you; learn from the people in these pages, neither quite me nor quite you, how life is lived in so many different ways.”
That quote alone lifts me off the ground. Novels have done that for me. I intend to do that for readers.
So let me get to it on this wintry Saturday afternoon.