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Kirkus: “If it’s possible to create a genre called ‘pulp philosophy,’ Montag…has done it.”

McDougal Cover“A young man reluctantly takes over his father’s mission against the embodiment of chaos.

“If it’s possible to create a genre called ‘pulp philosophy,’ Montag (The Dichotomy, 2015, etc.) has done it. The plot of the author’s latest novel hews to the conventions of pulp fiction, with tough-guy dialogue; bruising, exquisitely detailed fights; world-weary men beaten down by fate; and world-weary women worn down by loving them.”

Kirkus Reviews

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On Fiction: Toward a Theory of Creation (Part I: Foundations)

The current project is to try to codify, to some extent, a theory on the creation of fiction.   Here I’m concerned with the foundations underlying the creative process.  By “foundations,” I do not mean “style.”  Sartre says, of style, that  “[e]veryone invents his own, and one judges it afterward.  It is true that subjects suggest the style, but they do not order it.  There are no styles ranged a priori outside of the literary art” (Sartre 323); and I am inclined to agree with him.  (The issue of style, like most things, shouldn’t go unquestioned — but we can can come back to this later.)  What I’m concerned with now is authenticity.

I’ll start by laying bare my presupposition which is that there is in fact a telos to the creative process.  There is an end to be achieved here; there is a reason why we write fiction.  The telos is something I’ll have to leave somewhat vague for now (though we will come back to it in part two of this essay series).  I do want to say something about telos now, however briefly.  Sartre claims that “the function of the writer is to act in such a way that nobody can be ignorant of the world and that nobody may say that he is innocent of what it’s all about” (ibid. 321).  Sartre here seems to be implying that there is some sort of truth which the author has access to which is conveyed to a reader through the medium of fiction.  We can agree with this, provisionally.  The question of which particular truth, if any, an author is supposed to reveal will have to wait until part two (there we might also encounter the question of whether “truth” has any value at all).  With such questions, we’ll find ourselves in the most interesting of company…For now, we can content ourselves with telos broadly conceived as “truth.”  So the current topic of discussion, then, is how one ought to go about conveying truth. Continue reading

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