Thursday, November 8, 2007

Readers reading readers

I am thinking about metaness today, hence the previous post. Partly because I am headed to my brother's this evening to watch 30 Rock, that hilarious tv show about writing a hilarious tv show. We're trying to use the structure of the sitcom to help us write our own (sadly, no link [yet]), but also watching the sheningans of the writers gives us (me, anyway) about how writing as a team might go, or at least things we could throw at each other. And then, mentioning the story "Sleep" yesterday put me in mind of the fact that that was a story, in large part, about someone reading, which is very rare.

Insightful Kerry posted this about how important it is to see characters in fiction working if we are to fully imagine their lives, something I so utterly believe. I have been wondering what else that is normally left out would be good to have in? We never see the housework, but perhaps the times in people's lives most worth immortalizing in story are not the weeks and months when the stove was always sparkling. And maybe the events of novels and short stories often preclude a lot of leisure time for reading, television watching, movie attendance. God knows, a week in which I finish three books is not one you want to read a story about (or even a blog post).

But writers are word creatures and we build our lives as well as our fictions out of words, and I think characters can't help but reflect this. Yet I am having trouble thinking of concrete incidents of this--who wants to help me make a list of books read by fictional characters? Or even tv shows watched by them--I very much enjoyed in the current New Quarterly when Amelia Defalco's characters in "Monuments" watched rented episodes of Monty Python and Kids in the Hall as an excuse for time together. That wreaks of real life. Where else have I seen that?

On the other hand, writing about writing, whether on the page or on the screen, gets boring real fast. Writers are self-absorbed creatures, I know, and so I try to tread lightly on interests of my own that might not be anyone else's. Some can pull it off, of course: Roth's Zuckerman, Henry on Bosom Buddies and everything Aaron Sorkin ever wrote (think about it: tv sports writers, speech writers, tv comedy writers).

But is this sort of thing charmingly meta, insight into a delicate craft, or solipsism? As a girl who will, in 2008, attempt to finish a novel in which one of the central characters is a playwright, I do not know if I wish to push this question too far...

But a list of readers you've read about, that I'd like to see.

I wanna talk to you

PS--And then there was of course, Black's Books, the best (and only) tv show ever set in a bookstore. Every now and then on that one, someone actually read something, too!

1 comment:

Kerry said...

All right, I believe Pamela Anderson's *Stacked* was set in a bookstore, but I never saw it.

And when you are asking for your list, do you mean characters actually reading and not referencing books they've read? (Which is boring and facile, eh?) Hmmm. In my novel Carmen is reading "Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great" but perhaps I need to add more sweet leisure. In Mister Pip the characters aren't technically reading, but they are being told a story. So fascinating. I will think lots more. How fortunate that I've a brilliant person to discuss all this with this eve.