Vonnegut has come up again and again to me the last couple of days–his novels at the used bookstore I decided against and the interview with his wife on cspan at 3am that made me regret–and I find him once again as one of the catalysts to Susan Neville’s essay “Where’s Iago?” I’m still trying to get through the book Bringing the Devil to His Knees the Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life–re-visiting my annotations and highlighted portions made years back at Oregon State. And in this essay Neville recounts a late night Vonnegut call where he asks her a fact check question. He also asks her how ‘her’ novel is coming and she replies “It’s a mess.” He then gives her the problem with her novel without reading a word. He says “Where’ Iago?” And with that sets her thought process regarding evil as a character in fiction and evil as a force.
I was taken by the lines: “I’ve thought a lot about Iago, about how and why Iago might be a tool that helps create structures that are level and true, buildings strong enough to hold imaginary lives.”
I was also taken with the idea she never questioned Vonnegut in the phone call and yet this essay becomes her question and resolution. I also like the idea how Vonnegut becomes a force similar to Iago in a sense.
Oh and I was also taken with how she labels Vonnegut an architect and how she labels herself as someone better with materials than the design. This heartened me in my own thought on writing as expression and not communication.
More specifically to her thesis here I also enjoyed the idea we as writers should focus on evil as ‘the lie’ in life and so in fiction that creates the illusion for characters. The Iago of the fictive space “makes the conflict real”.
It seems in my fiction and my manuscripts Lolo–and Cornbread Baca too I suppose–acts as my Iago acting and reacting in a very human way to the world around him. He’s my trigger or my tool to create urgency. She also goes on to resolve: “Something needs to cause those tensions to erupt into time. This day, this story.” And so something has to expose the illusion and the Iago character or force should do that, creating the “hard truths” that make fiction satisfying. Well, my notes are breaking down and I’m tired. I’m sure I’m not doing this fine essay justice. So I’ll stop there for now and I hope to get to the next essay soon…