A few posts back I mentioned how I wanted to read through my tattered copy of Bringing the Devil to His Knees edited by Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi and while on holiday break from school I finally have the time and energy to reread and give some sort of classification and summary to this fine collection of essays on creative writing. I also hope to switch from the Burroway text to this one soon so hopefully these notes/blog entry/random thought will be a beginning to that idea. And also I am also back to the brain of Colorado and I am experimenting with the WordPress Blackberry app. And so the first essay by Richard Russo on the subject of omniscient narration has my thoughts racing on how to apply his thoughts to my work. First, Russo mentions that omniscient narration “is a mature writer’s technique.” I am 36 and find myself worrying at the completion of this essay if I have the skill and “authority” and “knowledge” as well as the “imagination”–this is how Russo sees it. I also like the metaphor of omniscience as driving with a stick shift as opposed to an automatic he uses throughout. I like the way he describes omniscience as a way to see a character internally and externally which is something I wrote about recently on Donoso’s Hell Has No Limits. And I like the way he mentions and somewhat criticizes Catcher in the Rye as well as the Great Gatsby as work that both perhaps could have benefitted from more omniscient aspects. Specifically he writes that Catcher was richer in style than substance and he writes Gatsby strains from the first person anchor. These are books I think of in terms of form with my own work. Highland stories was my mfa thesis and though I styled it mostly after Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son I thought of Catcher and my beloved Salinger and the idea of narrator as character and in my draft of Huerfanos and Little Lolo Stories I thought of Gatsby and a first person family member or friend writing about the past family events and crash sites as the narrator in Gatsby writes about Gatsby. And I can say that my work perhaps has begun more and more to lean towards omniscience narration. I also like the idea in his worry of making hard work even harder–the idea that complex stories don’t always need complex form but we must realize as writers we must give ourselves permission to take risks. So perhaps I can now go back to my drafts and consider worrying less of showing versus telling and allow myself to tell with knowledge and authority rather considering limits. Perhaps I will also check out his novel Nobody’s Fool which is the work he mentions in his last paragraph as being his bringing of first and third person narratives together. I also want to revisit Steinbeck’s Cannery Row which is another novel he uses examples/excerpts from.
And as I type I know these notes of Russo’s essay are pretty weak and I hope to come back to Russo’s essay but for now I do want to read through the book at least reading one essay a night and posting some thoughts every night again as I have a bit of time on holiday break. So tomorrow I have Jim Shepard’s essay “I Know Myself Real Well. That is the Problem.”