Good old Paris Review interviews. A goldmine for my DIY MFA,
The latest comes from John Irving in the 1980s. There's much to look at and think about in this interview, but what strikes me as compelling, because it was true then and now, is his comments on how a novel should be accessible. It shouldn't be about the pretensions of the writer and their taking the form to another level if it means they are essentially ignoring narrative, storytelling, plot and those things that make sitting with a novel such a unique artistic experience.
"As for my view of the contemporary novel . . . well, as I’ve said so many times: I’m old-fashioned. I believe in plot, of all things; in narrative, all the time; in storytelling; in character. Very traditional forms interest me. This nonsense about the novel being about “the word” . . . what can that mean? Are we novelists going to become like so many modern poets, writing only for and to each other, not comprehensible to anyone who isn’t another writer? I have only a prep-school education in the poems of John Milton. Yet I can read Milton; I really understand him. All that time has passed, and yet he’s still clear. But when I read the poems of someone my own age and can’t understand a single thing, is that supposed to be a failure of my education, or of the poetry?
"The novel is a popular art form, an accessible form. I don’t enjoy novels that are boring exercises in show-off writing with no narrative, no characters, no information—novels that are just an intellectually discursive text with lots of style. Is their object to make me feel stupid? These are not novels. These are the works of people who want to call themselves writers but haven’t a recognizable form to work in. Their subject is their technique. And their vision? They have no vision, no private version of the world; there is only a private version of style, of technique."
Though I think there are a great many novels out there that are accessible and well-told stories, when one looks at short stories being published today you have to scratch your head. Many literary journals, the home for short fiction, and magazines publish stories that read as if they were written for an MFA professor and related classmates.
They don't feel as if they were written for readers.
Take a look at nearly anything coming out of the journals and compare it to A Clean Well Lighted Place and you will see there is more art-of-writing in Hemingway's story than the journal piece AND it is written for readers.
You can have both, art and a compelling narrative, story and plot.