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Novel Nausea

Zadie Smith talks the essay and the novel at The Guardian. An excerpt:

Novels, by contrast, are idiosyncratic, uneven, embarrassing, and quite frequently nausea-inducing – especially if you happen to have written one yourself. Within the confines of an essay or – even better! – an aphorism, you can be the writer you dream of being. No word out of place, no tell-tale weak spots (dialogue, the convincing representation of other people, plot), no absences, no lack. I think it’s the limits of the essay, and of the real, that truly attract fiction writers. In the confined space of an essay you have the possibility of being wise, of making your case, of appearing to see deeply into things – although the thing you’re generally looking into is the self. “Other people”, that mainstay of what [David] Shields calls the “moribund conventional novel”, have a habit of receding to a point of non-existence in the “lyrical essay”.

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About John Madera

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.
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2 thoughts on “Novel Nausea

  1. Interesting article. I guess some people do get sick of the same thing over and over. Apparently not the consuming public though. The same types of writing has been atop the best seller lists for years.

  2. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of the novel though certain approaches toward the novel sometimes bother me, and those approaches getting almost all the attention, accolades, and awards certainly rankles.

    By the way, I just picked up a galley of Shields’s Reality Hunger and, so far, it’s a lot of fun.

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