There is a constant buzz around concerning new books, old books, favourite books.
I’m part of that buzz. I write about books all the time. I analyse story and describe narrative. If I were someone who was confident about her work, I’d tell everyone my list of things to consider for prizes, but I’m not, and my big work this year is a little book, Story Matrices, looking at story and how we transmit culture through it. For me, its big achievement is that I’ve finally managed to find a way of explaining important things so that writers and editors can work with some terribly important concepts. Too many have (in my presence) said “I can’t handle this” about these ideas. Some still will say that they can’t handle things.” But writers are now coming up to me and saying, “I think I understand.” They understand how culture can be more safely tackled in fiction. They understand how to weave culture into their writing, just as people who read History and Fiction could see how history is used and what research for story is all about and…
I spend so much of my life trying to understand and then explain, that these two books are very important to me. What I want is people to read them and to argue with them and to annotate them and to find their own understanding of story. I want readers and critics to take what I’ve described and say “But” and “I can do better than this” and “Wait, I have an idea!”
Awards help people find the book they want to read next (so nominate the books you want seen), but the biggest reward of all is someone reading my books. Intelligently, Argumentatively. Not arguing with me, but with what I’ve written. Finding their own path through this argument.
All my books are meant to be read actively. Maybe not all with argument – that’s the academic books – but with criticism and thought and feeling. And…
Maybe it’s time to do a blog series that introduces all my books. Today you’ve had Story Matrices and History and Fiction. Short academic works that people tell me are surprisingly readable. Over and over again I am told this. Every time, I hope that this means that the person telling me has frowned over one page and laughed at a comment and taken notes to find a book I mentioned and said, at some point, “Yes, this is what I needed to read right now.” And then they put the book down and think about what it says and how that applies to their favourite writers. And to their least favourite. And to the book they’re reading because the book club says to. And to the book they got from the library by mistake. And to the book their favourite bookseller says “You really need to read this.”
I love readers who think for themselves and have their own opinions. I won’t agree with all their opinions, just as they won’t agree with all of mine, but it’s such a joy to hear them. Of all my books, the two that were written to provoke interesting discussions are Story Matrices and History and Fiction. They’re short on character and plot, and long on research, but that’s fine, other kinds of books have character and plot.
I love it that some books are read because they’re like others and are comfortable, and we read others because they pull us into new worlds and light up our minds with concepts and humour. I’m not sure whether authors are the right people to describe their own books, but … I’m going to try. This post is the first in a series that may well last right up until the next author interview.