Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What I Learned from Michael Chabon's Fountain City

So, I'm on Goodreads--have you heard of Goodreads? It's Facebook for books. Anyway, they have a challenge where you pick how many books you're going to read in 2011. My friend Mel showed me. I played along. I need the encouragement. I don't read as much as I did/should/would, but to be fair if I were able to bind all the student writing I read it would certainly give Vollmann's Rising Up and Rising Down a run for it's length (and that's yearly). It's a pathetically low bar I set for myself, but even so I find myself picking shorter and shorter books to read. Which is why I read Fountain City by Michael Chabon. It's not even a book, but four chapters of a failed book, a "wrecked" book with annotations and miscellany by the author. It was part of McSweeney's 36, so is actually, technically a magazine article, but it's on Goodreads freestanding so I'm counting it as a book. Point is you should read it. I should make my students read it. See how they like it. Having to read stuff. Here's a list of things I learned. I won't go into detail because since this is only four chapters, the spoilers wouldn't be the plot but how Chabon writes about his failure.

  1. How writing can be suicide (non-poet edition).

  2. The care of characters hanged from the "peg board of the imagination."

  3. The role of the random.

  4. Definition of draftitis.

  5. Ditto authorial alienation

  6. Thoughts on writing post-workshop

  7. The need for a novelist's spouse (are you listening, Heather?).

Now to find something shorter to read.