Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Native Son, Part III

I'm such an English major nerd. Even after graduating and being freed forever from the obligation to do homework, I spend my weekends writing literary analysis essays of exactly the type I used to be assigned to write as homework, except now I'm writing them entirely of my own accord, voluntarily doing homework in my free time without even being enrolled in a class. Something is clearly very wrong with me.

Anyway. Now that I have approached the book as a literary analyst I wish to approach it in a different way, as an aspiring writer with something to learn from Richard Wright's methods. Most writers do not explain a great deal about their writing process, but Richard Wright in his introduction explained a great many things that I related to - foremost among them being the fact that the book came to him more in the form of a character's personality than in the form of a structured plot, and that once he had written the first draft he found he did not know how to end the book at all. This is exactly what happened to me with the novel that I was attempting to write in college, and eventually I got so stuck with the lack of any proper ending that I stopped writing entirely and I still have not fixed the poor half-written book. I need to do this. Native Son's plot is so magnificently perfectly structured, with the absolute bare minimum of scenes necessary, and all of them arranged in the most perfect balance far more like a poem than like the usual chaotic sprawling plot one expects from novels, that it's almost impossible to imagine this book ever havign been so broken and plotless as mine. But if it was, and was later fixed into this, then mine can be fixed too, and I want to fix it.

Secondly: I am not on good terms with this John Reilly person who wrote the afterword to the book at all. The entire afterword is not even five full pages long, but I'm going to disagree with practically every single sentence he said in it. Most particularly, John Reilly claims that Book Three of Native Son, in which the Communist defense attorney Boris Max presents in court the abstract academic theories of racism, oppression, capitalism and how all of these have affected the psychologies of all the characters in the novel, is "the weakest part of the novel."

I admit that Book 3 is a stark and jarring transition from what began as an almost mainstream work of typical action/horror/thriller/tragedy genre fiction that just happened to have a black protagonist, into an essay on abstract sociological theory, spliced neatly into the plot of a book which one would not normally expect to be accompanied by such essays. However, I challenge the tradition which claims that horror novels and academic essays should not be packaged together and sold as a pair. Why shouldn't they be? This is another issue I was critiqued for in my own novel, because I do wanted to package it with an abstract sociological theory essay spliced into the middle of it, and my readers kept object and insisting that I wasn't allowed to do that in a novel. Why shouldn't I be? Why should genre be interpreted as a medium we're required to follow, instead of just one that a lot of writers in the past have chosen to follow but that we can choose to disregard when we see fit? Richard Wright's essay-embedded-in-a-novel didn't bore me at all; it was exquisitely carried out and as far as I'm concerned, it's proof of the fact that such mixing of genres can work and should be undertaken more often.
Tags: books
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