When I met my writing mentor last week we talked about structure of a novel, mine, which as a result needs completely overhauling. But when we'd finished the official session, of course we carried on talking about writing. In particular description in novels.
I confessed that I couldn't get along with Ian McEwan's books; when I dislike a writer's work who has been given critical acclaim I tend to think there's a fault in my understanding of how to appreciate it. It was a comfort when he admitted to a similar problem with Margaret Attwood. We both seemed to be obsessed less with beautiful writing and more with the story.
Our chat came into my mind again this morning when I caught up with some Writer's Almanac emails and read about Jhumpa Lahiri. The item quoted her story about buying chairs with her husband. He wanted spectacular beautiful ones; she opted for comfort. For her writing is less about being beautiful than about doing something useful within the context of the story she's telling.
As a struggling novelist I always gain comfort hearing about famous writers and how they've dealt with their writing challenges. Just yesterday I dipped into a book on writing crime novels by Patricia Highsmith at a passage about having to cut out a huge number of pages she really liked in a manuscript to satisfy an editor.
Gives me the heart to keep going!