Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Do Writers Abandon Novels? NYT vs Black Swan

“A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition,” Michael Chabon writes in the margins of his unfinished novel “Fountain City.”

 That's the opening line of a new essay in the New York Times Book Review: Why Do Writers Abandon Novels?

There are a lot of interesting thoughts on that from very successful writers, though none live up to that amazing opening line.

I felt Columbine trying to choke me to death countless times. And about three years into the process,
I did have to set the failed book project aside, work on it as a magazine piece for a few years, and then start completely over in 2004—five years in—with a completely different approach, scrapping nearly all the original material.

My advice for anyone who has never abandoned a huge writing project and finds the whole concept puzzling is to read the Times piece as an intro, and then go watch Black Swan. That film is exactly about what Chabon refers to—the work threatening to kill its creator—via a different art form (dancing).

The film proves once again that an art work hurtling you into the experience is profoundly more illuminating than an essay describing it.


  1. Perhaps those who abandon novels prefer to write essays?

  2. Having your editor pass on the proposal for your option book is a killer, as well. Sigh.

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