Tag Archives: Chicago Review of Books

Turning Someone Else’s Diary Into A New Story

This should be an eye-opener for those who like to write in the first person singular point of view.

Of the novels I’ve encountered which take the form of a diary (having chapters or scene breaks labeled with dates), most are disappointing because they’re too detailed, especially because the dated “entries” usually include vast amounts of dialogue. While a strong, sustained suspension of disbelief is required by any novel written in the first person, no diarist’s memory of conversations can plausibly be very lengthy or detailed, and a niggling background awareness of that truth can make it difficult to stay engaged with such stories.

However otherwise unrealistic a work of fiction may be, plausibility is the key to its effective delivery to the imagination of the reader. A writer could better achieve suspension of disbelief (as well as create greater suspense) by paring down the contents of purported diary entries to the minimum necessary to support character development and the movement of the story through their arcs.

Chicago Review of Books

There are some sentences, some images, some artifacts, that stick with us over time. These are different for every person, but something imperceptible causes them to lodge themselves in our minds, draws us to think those words over and over, recall the feelings that go with them. Still to this day, when I sit down to write something I think to myself, “Hunter ready to write,” a reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s infamous schedule. When my girlfriend and I are walking and see a flock of birds, we might say to each other, “They could be starlings,” a reference to Shane Carruth’s film Upstream Color.

With Aug 9 – Fog, Kathryn Scanlan has created something truly unique. As explained in a note preceding the text, the book is an arrangement of sentences pulled from a five-year diary Scanlan found at an estate sale. Unlike the title, the diary…

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Another Author’s Insight: Frances Richard.

Stress is not only a fact of engineering, but a property of language; punctuation is a system for designating in writing the critical points were emphasis—stress—is to be laid. “Point” and “punctuation,” furthermore, are etymologically related, both deriving from the Latin pungere, to prick or pierce. DESTRUCTIONAL PUNCTUATION is therefore not as contrary as it seems. Holes made by piercing a built fabric and dots or dashes laid down to punctuate a text perform analogous functions, creating order by introducing spaces. Thus inflected, the building becomes articulate, legible. As such, although it has been destroyed, it WORKS. It performs an unexpected cultural labor, becoming operational at a new level. . . .

~ in Gordon Matta-Clark: Physical Poetics, University of California Press (2019).


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