Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Continuing away...

I'm currently reading John Gardner's On Moral Fiction, with an odd result: I don't think I can quite view Jean-Paul Sartre the same. Put another way, I can't quite take Sartre so seriously. Gardner's critiques of Sartre are incisive, and I think they'll stick with me in further considerations of Sartre's ideas.

Another step toward being a former existentialist.


  1. Gardner is really good, isn't he? His Art of Fiction is a modern-day Poetics, in my opinion. It really shaped the way I understand and write fiction.

    So what are the theses Gardner puts forth in On Moral Fiction? I haven't read any of that one.

  2. Gardner focuses a lot of attention on the writing PROCESS. He says the writer must not work with a fixed plan/idea/theory to show, but must be open to surprises, open to possibilities and conclusions he/she didn't plan on when he/she started. This is his sense of "moral fiction:" art as a particular technique or process which seeks truth and is open to possibilities.

    But he also means moral in the sense we might more familiarly recognize it, as "good" or "life-giving," and he wants writers to show that they care about their characters.

    It's a very engaging book.

  3. Sounds like something I should pick up in the near future. In The Art of Fiction he talks about freewheeling without a plan, too--calls it "jazzing around." He says the writers aren't taking it seriously, but that it still produces some fantastic things. Joyce and Rabelais and Donald Barthelme would fall into this category, I think.

    I wonder how his ideas in the two books compare.