Pardon the week-long hiatus--we're both, lord help us, writing. Today, though, I finally threw in the towel and decided to print out a fresh draft of my novel for Rhian to read. Every time, I think this is the one she's going to race through in a day, then say, "It's perfect, send it off." And every time I'm wrong. (She is responsible for the removal of an embarrassingly ill-fitting element from Castle.) In any event, even if it sucks, it's nice to have it out of my hands, if only for a week.
This is the tenth novel I have actually written, counting the ones that didn't get published, and I'm beginning to wonder maybe if I'm writing too fast. This is a fault I have always felt free to find in other writers, but haven't really ever taken seriously the notion that it's one of mine, as well. In general I produce a (so far) publishable one every two years, and have done a couple even faster than that.
And usually I'm satisfied with the results, more or less. But last night I was reading this new Lorrie Moore. I like it, and I have always looked up to Moore as kind of a hero. But above and beyond that, the book has a particular quality my work lacks--it feels carefully composed, worked over. It's written...exquisitely. It feels like somebody's first novel in ten years.
Of course, there's something to be said about a book that feels unburdened, that you can read quickly, that skates along in an uninterrupted progression of thoughts. This is what I tell myself I'm writing. That my stuff is qualitatively different because of my pace, and this is a neither good nor bad thing.
But then again, think of the popular writers who publish a lot. T. C. Boyle. Joyce Carol Oates. Even if you really dig them (and there is a lot to like about these writers), admit it--you sometimes think they publish too much. You kind of wish they would calm the hell down and go into hiding for ten years. There's a slight taint to the respect we have for them, because of their output. It's not even necessarily about quality--even if they published the same damned books, unchanged from the versions we know, and just spaced them out to every five years, we would probably convince ourselves that these books are better, because they appear to be the result of years and years of effort.
That's not the main thing, though--the prose is the main thing. And while I don't want to emulate Lorrie Moore, I am thinking that the next book I write will be much shorter and much more finely wrought. (I think I already know what it is, a novel I've been wanting to write for nearly a decade, ever since a graduate student suggested it to me after reading a little metafiction I published in a local newspaper.) And if I know what's good for me, when I'm finished, I'll wait ten years before putting it in the mail.