Monday, January 14, 2013

The Allure of the 1st Novel

A first novel holds a special place in an author's heart – sometimes it is the only book they will write, sometimes the best. Occasionally, the writer would prefer to forget it altogether.

From a story in the Guardian...

First novels are special. They represent the first thing a writer wants to say about the world. They are often believed to be heavily autobiographical, but of course may not be. Mine, begun in Paris in 1984 and finished in London five years later, was about two men, apparently doubles of each other, who live in London and Paris. One is a tightrope walker who is mutilating himself in his sleep, gradually slicing his penis into halves, an eighth of an inch at a time, while the other is working as an actor in a theatre production in the French capital.Some newspapers have a special column for reviews of first novels, which would appear to hand them special status, like a distinct genre. They are generally afforded a little leeway by critics; there's an unwritten rule that you don't slag off first novels. 

Some writers write only one novel – their first and last. Near-contemporaries HP Lovecraft and Rainer Maria Rilke, authors of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge respectively, were better known as a short story writer and a poet. Arguably, they were also better at writing short stories and poetry than writing novels. Another poet, who did write an outstanding novel and may well have gone on to write more, was Sylvia Plath.

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