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On fiction and imagination

Worth the time. Less than 20 minutes.

An intelligent and beautifully-told piece about fiction, imagination, writers, and stereotyping.

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9 replies »

  1. Yes, there is much here to digest at a time when digesting, observing and contemplating is what I seem to be about just now.

    Thank you for posting this, much appreciated.

  2. it’s a good speech indeed. intelligent and solid.

    as an asian writer too i can relate to quite a bit of what she says here. back in graduate school i thought about doing my thesis on southeast asian literature in english but was advised against it – and i did give up on my own as well. writing in english as a second language or as some kind of ‘outsiders’, the majority of asian writers i’ve read could be ‘obsessed’ with the issue of cultural identity and their work often come across as ‘representative’ of where they’re from. the imagination in these works ends up limited/limiting and some of the literary merit is lost.

    each culture has its different modes of story telling and i think it’d be a fair question for anyone to ask me, for example, why does this story happen in HK but not anywhere else? if they’re to pick up my work, though i don’t necessarily have to give them an answer. i suppose for years i carried that burden too, because that’s how the writers, scholars and critics in HK or even Asia (that i’ve been aware of and exposed to) approach this subject. this is actually what i had in mind when i commented on your posts about the relation between characters and their locales.

    • I am curious about southeast Asian literature, and we have to talk about that when you get here. I have spent time in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam, but am linguistically limited to what is available to me in English, so it is presorted.

      Apologies for my delay in responding. I am deeply immersed in pushing toward the end of this novel. I’ve got almost 330 pages now, and early on thought it would have ended by now, but there seems to be a lot of bits and pieces still swirling in the air that need to settle somewhere.

      You know the old theatrical maxim: If you put a gun on the mantle in act one, you have to use it in act three. Well, I put quite a few guns on the mantle early, and now I’m trying to figure out where and when to use them.

      Thanks for coming over for a visit, Nicole. (I thought of you in particular when I saw this TED video.)

  3. That was wonderful.

    What all writers know (or should) is feeling. That doesn’t alter whether you’re writing about Turkish women or white Southern males.

    She’s correct about identity politics dictating what we read. Such “peculiar” identities are in demand. Those authors have platforms and are expected to speak from them in particular ways.

    Yes, I’ve encountered the word platform. That word and all the incumbent rigmarole associated with it will only lead to homogeneous work being published. I like her idea of writing outside one’s cultural boundary.

    One thing the world had less of in the past is glass. Now, everywhere we look we see reflections. I hold up my phone and before the LED is illuminated, there I am.

    What if we had to look to others to find out about ourselves? Would the world be a better place?

    Congrats on nearing the end of the book. I look forward to reading it when it comes out.

  4. I wonder if TED offers transcripts? Bet they do.

    I Googled her. I did not want to know that she was drop dead hot AND a fantastic literary speaker. Some things it is better not knowing.

    She has written quite a few novels, and the most recent looked interesting. I am going to get onto Amazon and try a couple.

    Guns on the mantle, a playwriting maxim, is one of the most valuable writing lessons I learned. If there is no reason for something to be there, don’t put it there. Problem for me is that my plot became complicated early on, and now I have a lot of issues to resolve and plot lines to connect. I still think I will finish this thing in about 50 more pages.

    I am tired and in despair. I want to get to the end of it. This book, I mean. The despair is due to uselessness.

    Think I’ll do a Brad and go have a stiff drink.

    • Oh, you said it first. Good. By Jehoshaphat, she’s purty. Not only was I entranced by the content, but that accent…well.

      50 pages! So close to the end.

      As for a stiff drink, yes. That’s what I have planned as soon as the house goes dark and quiet.

      • Taking absolutely nothing away from this woman’s evident literary talent and creative mind, nor anyone else’s, it doesn’t hurt one bit to be purty, and whatever the male version of that is: hunkie?

        In my early days, it was common, pre-PC, to tell a writer that it helps to have a “look” for getting TV interviews, and a “voice” that works on radio. Implying that purty folks will be more effective at marketing their creative work.

        Um. Now I am beginning to understand my low sales figures.