Friday, April 04, 2008

On reading and writing

Just finished reading Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. It's twisted, gross, imaginative, and has some intriguing thoughts on how messed up humans are. Reminds me of Vonnegut. In it, wannabe famous "writers" take turns telling really horrifying stories as they wait to be rescued, even though they're the ones holding themselves hostage.

One thing that stands out about the book is the "Afterword (or Warning) of Sorts." In it, Palahniuk writes about how one of the stories in the novel makes people faint whenever he does a reading. Not sure if he's being serious, but then he includes these thoughts about writing, which I'd like to share:

But the first time I read "Guts," nobody fainted. My goal was just to write some new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world. Without supernatural monsters or magic. This would be a book that would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone, when you opened the cover.

Because only books have that power.

A motion picture, or music, or television, they have to maintain a certain decorum in order to be broadcast to a vast audience. Other forms of mass media cost too much to produce to risk reaching only a limited audience. Only one person. But a book. ... A book is cheap to print and bind. A book is as private and consensual as sex. A book takes time and effort to consume--something that gives a reader every chance to walk away. Actually, so few people make the effort to read that it's difficult to call books a "mass medium." No one really gives a damn about books. No one has bothered to ban a book in decades.

But with that disregard comes the freedom that only books have. And if a storyteller is going to write novels instead of screenplays, that's a freedom you need to exploit. ...

[I]f you want the freedom to go anywhere, talk about anything, then write books.

He's right about so few people reading. But still, it makes me want to write. And I hope it makes you want to read.


appopt said...

It's unknown if anyone has ever fainted reading "Guts," but I will admit that it made me squirm. A lot.

Oh, and another thing: I had a couple of my students read the story. Actually, I had the book with me, they saw it, and I said, "No, you can't read this. It's inappropriate and disturbing." That sealed the deal. They HAD to read it. I said, "No. It might make you sick. Or give you nightmares." So they snatched it away from me. And read it. And loved it. And now want to read the whole book. (That's one way to get kids to read. Then again, if the book is amazing, the kids will read it.)

rich the photo guy said...

Now, I'm going to have to read the book...
{scribbles yet another book down on an already monumental list}

-- rich the photoguy