[lit-ideas] Re: Sustained Incongruencies

  • From: "Andy Amago" <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2006 23:38:49 -0400

> [Original Message]
> From: Eric <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: 4/3/2006 6:07:59 PM
> Subject: [lit-ideas] Sustained Incongruencies
> Self-absorbed characters can only take a novel so 
> far. _The Fall_ and _Lolita_ work, I think, 
> because Camus and Nabokov know more and feel more 
> than their narrators. My unschooled take on 
> narcissism--please correct me Carol--is that a 
> narcissistic personality organization lacks that 
> transcendence, that empathy, and in extreme cases 
> (the NPD Irene mentioned) narcissists treat people 
> only as objects, and become increasingly 
> grandiose, withdrawn, and isolated as they grow 
> older. Like Humbert Humbert, but unlike Nabokov, 
> there is no one else there, no real Lolita, for a 
> narcissist.

I agree.  On the other hand, anyone who is shut down emotionally is
isolated, however they express their symptoms.  It's what I meant by saying
that the DSM is like pasta, the same dough in different shapes.   An NPD
could conceivably believe himself to be the world's best observer and
novelist.  Whether a book agent would agree is a something else.

> We agree that there's no clay tablet of inscribed 
> rules for novels, but I think characters have to 
> be imagined or they can't be re-created on the 
> page. (We may be quibbling about semantics here.) 
> Also there's the notion of plot, the conflict of 
> competing desires, which have their best 
> expression when more than one character embodies 
> them. Finally, there's the notion of 
> identification. If the reader doesn't have 
> sympathy for the narrator or protagonist, if you 
> don't really care about the struggles of a book's 
> narrative center, the hero if you will, then why 
> read? And narcissists--who dismiss others, don't 
> listen, lack empathy--would seem to be at a 
> disadvantage in bringing about audience 
> identification.

But it wouldn't stop them from thinking they're writing The Great American
Novel.  NPD aside, I'm not sure that being empathic is necessarily what
makes a great writer.  Was Shakespeare empathic?  He was a keen observer
primarily, in my opinion, and he had the ability to look at a situation and
turn it into a story.  People like Michael Crichton can do that, read a
science story on cloning, read up on chaos, and come up with Jurassic Park.
His characters are flat, his sentences are prosaic, but he tells a good
story and people love him.  A little off the subject, I heard a writer
interviewed once and she said, with a relatively few exceptions, the vast
majority of writers are forgotten.  I guess aspiring to be one of the ones
who aren't forgotten might be a goal, or a mirage depending on how one
looks at it.

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