Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Philip K. Dick's weaknesses in writing 'literary' fiction

It's well known that Dick really wanted to write "literary" fiction and, above all, achieve mainstream success. He wrote over ten non-[science fiction] novels in an attempt to climb out of the gutters of pulp fiction and become a "real" writer. Only one of these, Confessions of a Crap Artist, was published during his lifetime.

Part of the problem was Dick's prose. Chronically strapped for cash, he tended to write at lightning speed, completing entire books in a matter of days and attending to concepts more than things like language and characterization. But even when he "took his time" (a month or two for a book, still rather fast and furious), his writing almost always favored ideas over plot, story, social and emotional resonance, etc. — at least according to mainstream standards. More importantly, many of his novels get bogged down in loose ends and weird departures, violating formulae that literary fiction deeply cherishes.

Interesting points for anyone who recently completed a novel for National Novel Writing Month.

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