The capsule


Deborah Treisman defines much of the popular discourse on contemporary fiction. She being obsessed with imagery, I imagine most people under 30 are as well. And to prove that point, here is Jonathan Franzen this week. Then, the Cinderella story happened. Paul Harding’s Tinkers deserves all its superlatives. The greatest pleasure of it though was in the effortless shifting of narrative perspective from third person to first person and thus using imagery as a space time capsule — not a tool. Harding says it better,

Dave: The book is full of passages that fixate on senses and surroundings. One that jumps out is your description of the living room where George is dying. We see every item in the room.
Harding: Sort of a catalog. The catalog of the exhibition, sure.

Dave: At those moments, instead of pushing the narrative forward, it’s as if time stops.
Harding: I recognize that at a certain point it becomes a matter of taste, but I often think of my stories as painting or a type of tapestry. It just happens to be the case that when fictional moments present themselves to me, they present themselves as instants.

There is a process of taking the moment and exploding it. You keep penetrating to find the essence. To the extent that the story has dramatic tension, it comes from the tension of the moment: man thinking, or consciousness, as opposed to, as you say, action or plot. It tends toward the lyrical.

As a writer, you just have to be hyperaware of the very predictable pitfalls to avoid so it doesn’t turn into mere indices of details. You have to keep applying pressure, to interrogate the details. So it’s inclusive but not exhaustive, if that makes any sense.

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