Saturday, 27 February 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, 
and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.  ~
William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958 (Writer of Sophie's Choice)

Though some read for escapism, most literary work is not escapism... or perhaps it is. If I'm having a crap day and I read Macbeth or Tess of the d'Urberville, it makes me feel my life isn't so bad. The fact that my coffee maker is on the fritz isn't as bad as having to choose which of my children will have to die by gassing in a concentration camp.

So we need to take time out to thank those neurotic out there that imagined the horrible life stories of characters both real or imagined. We may not like our life so much if everyone we read about pranced about their mansions with the love of their lives.

How does the quote touch you? Have you read Sophie's Choice or seen the movie? How did it affect you? Can you see why the writer said what he did?

Also, if you haven't seen the video posted on Elizabeth's site - Mystery Writing is Murder yet, go see it. It's a funny look at editors.


Mason Canyon said...

I hate to admit I've haven't read or seen Sophie's Choice. Guess I need to get the DVD and get caught up. I think we write to lose ourselves sometimes. By reading we're transformed to so many other places and times.

J.L. Campbell said...

Haven't read that book.

The books that stay longest with me are those where the characters go through situations that turn their lives upside down and inside out.

I agree that books and reading wouldn't be the same if writers didn't reach deep within to come up with plots that keep us rooting for their mc's

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Neither, but you're reminding me that I want to read it. I'm going to put it on my Goodreads to-read list so I don't forget.

Last year my son went through an engagement break-up, with the girl he'd dated on and off for 5 years. He was pretty down to say the least. Well, I had just finished Tess of the D'urbervilles and said, Here, read this, you'll really like it. He took it because the copy was a small paperback that fit in his backback while commuting on the bus and train.

Long story short (ha ha, too late) he LOVED the book, went ahead and read everything else by Thomas Hardy, and came out of it feeling much better about everything. He's now married to a wonderful girl who is a better match for him anyway.

Moral of the story: Depressing books brilliantly written can be better than counseling lol!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Mason, and isn't it an adventure? I think that's why I love writing so much, I invent these words to escape.

Joy, I think you're right. No one will get attached and remember characters that don't resemble them at all.

Karen, you're brilliant. Now librarians can be psychiatrists... just too bad they can't get paid the same. Thank you for your insightful comment and I'm glad your son's life had a happy ending.


Anonymous said...

Good quote. I have not read or seen "Sophie's Choice" but I can say the author was dead on with his assertion that literature would be dull if it was only written by the happy, errr, chuckleheads. The most moving pieces of literature are those that give us drama - there's contrast of light (happy) and dark (pain/grief) that generally allows for introspection. If nothing else it can allow the reader a sojourn into another emotional space than they were inhabiting before they opened the covers.

Ultimately, variety is the spice of life and boy is that clear in books. Each author with their own prose, stories and style reminds us how very unique all our experiences are.

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

ali cross said...

I LOVE that quote. Wowie. I haven't read or seen Sophie's Choice. Just thinking about that topic is enough for me to feel grateful I don't have to live it. ♥

Anonymous said...

I've seen Sophie's Choice a few times and have it on my 100 books list. I'm looking forward to it.

For me, the quote says that there would be nothing to teach, experience, or tell if writers were notoriously happy. Because once the novel gets happy, the novel is boring. The conflict is gone.

And who can write conflict better, more deeply, more passionately than someone who is living it as they write?

Love this series! :)


from the desk of a writer

TirzahLaughs said...

If you don't know the plot of Sophie's Choice, read no further.

That movie/book was one of the beautifully depressing stories.

When in Germany, Sophie doesn't help her lover translate Nazi documents, he is killed.

Because of her involvement with him, she is arrested and put in the camps with her two children. She is forced to choose which child will die or both will die.

She chooses to save her son and her daughter is gassed to death. Then her son dies in the camps. Plus, guilt is worse because her father was a Nazi sympathizer.

So, she survives but her father, children, her lover, her whole family dies but she lives. She can't deal with the guilt.

After a failed suicide attempt, she gets involved with an unstable man who at turns treats where wonderfully and horribly. She clings to him no matter what because he is all that she has left.

And part of feels that she deserves his angry outbursts.

The whole story is shown through lens of her friend. a writer called Stingo.

From the start of the story, you know in your heart that Sophie is doomed. Alive or dead, she's doomed yet you keep reading because it's a captivating story if a sad one.

I won't tell you the exact end but you get the idea.

I can't read that story if my heart is already heavy. I have to be in the mood for it. It hurts to read it. Empathy is a bitch.

Athira said...

I have this book on my wishlist! I hope to read it some time. And yes, I agree we ought to thank the writers of the most horrible life stories. I love reading such books for a perspective on such characters, and yep, they do make me feel better!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Kimberley, love your extra insights. I'm happy I can add to the word of books even if bad things happen in my novels.

Ali, yeah, I don't think many could live on after making that choice. I would have a difficult time.

Corra, I agree. Conflict is so important to a novel.

Aths, love your honesty. Hope you enjoy the book.


Unknown said...

I read Sophie's Choice first and then saw the film . Since then I have re read that book but I dont think I can watch the film again. The image of Meryl Streep in the scene where she narrates the choice she had to make made my hair stand on end . But then she is a consummate actress , isnt she?

Ann Elle Altman said...

That's true. Meryl is a very good actress and capable of pulling off such a poignant role.