13.9.11

In life, literature and publishing, it's all about the spiral staircase


When Gary and I were in Paris a couple weeks ago, we decided to rent a little apartment instead of staying in a hotel. We got a great place in Montmartre, just a hop skip from the des Abbesses subway station. A great little place, bigger than a hotel room, but cheaper. Slight drawback: it was a fourth floor walk-up. Traversing up and down each day, I kept thinking about what Karen Armstrong said about the spiral staircase: you keep coming around to the same place, but you're a level higher.

This is such an apt description of the novel writing process, an eloquent description, in fact, of any endeavor that requires that sort of constant effort and upward striving.

Karen Armstrong on the subject of fiction:
“...the experience of reading a novel has certain qualities that remind us of the traditional apprehension of mythology. It can be seen as a form of meditation. Readers have to live with a novel for days or even weeks. It projects them into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional realm is not 'real' and yet while they are reading it becomes compelling. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book asie. It is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with others lives and sorrows. It teaches compassion, the ability to 'feel with' others. And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do so, it can change us forever.”

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