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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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11/08/2004

Comments

CAAF

Dan,

This passage from David Lodge's review of the final volume of Norman Sherry's biography of Graham Greene seems to fit with your argument. It's in reference to a character in
A Burnt Out Case:

What makes Parkinson live as a character, as Sherry's quotations from the novel remind us, is Greene's creative use of language, first in describing the journalist's gross physical appearance ("his neck as he lay on his bed was forced into three ridges like gutters, and the sweat filled them and drained round the curve of his head on to the pillow"), and secondly in the wonderfully cynical rhetoric with which Parkinson defends his kind of sensationally fabricated journalism:

Do you really believe Caesar said "Et tu, Brute?" It's what he ought to have said and someone...spotted what was needed. The truth is always forgotten.


The review appears here:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17594

Dan Green

This does indeed sound pretty close to what I'm saying in the post.There's even a Chandler-like quality to the speicific language Lodge refers to.

Hapax Legomenon

These are issues I face everyday in the genre of erotic fiction.

Mediocre examples of it tends to begin with vital statistics at the first paragraph (i.e., Big-bosomed, blonde haired 18 year old Susan Nessum walked down the school hallway in her tiny shorts."). And actions/situations can sometimes produce caricatures of sexuality than genuine representations. The most successful characters are those which are clearly parodies or have generic enough qualities (is the woman 18 years old or 40 years old? Does it make a difference?). However, erotic fiction (most of it anyway) aims at plausibility; authors want to create genuine characters without seeming ridiculous. In my own experience, I've found that concentrating on the story itself (and not worrying about characterization) produces the best results.

A lot of what you are saying has to do with choice of what details to present. It also has to do with where to put the focus. A good author needs to recognize how much introspection deserves to be included in the story itself. (here, we are focusing on the story structure rather than on style or character).

In the Marlowe example you cite (and btw, I've never read him!), the question is focus: when do you shift between external detail and internal monologue? This is a problem peculiar to first person narrative, but we face this in third person narrative as well (and in other genres like film). ]

Focus is not a question of character; it is a question of how the author has decided to reveal a character's point of view. I can't remember if it was Frye who used backgrounding/foregrounding to describe points of view. This seems more of a matter of dramaturgy than style.

I wrote my undergrad thesis on character development in Kundera's novels. He relied on minimal character description and even less on stream of consciousness. Instead he relied on external appearances, dialogues, actions and (of course) sex. This approach to characterization has a lot to do with the communist state he found himself in (and the need to keep private thoughts and desires away from the secret police). Kundera was relying on Diderot's concept of action establishing character (Jaques the Fatalist). The only problem with this approach is that the characters often read like caricatures, and it is hard to feel too much emotional attachment; in fact, Kundera goes through just as many characters in his novels as a Casanova. For Kundera, this was not important; he was more interested in thematic development than character development, more interested in throwing characters into situations than creating complex portraits.

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