Monday, May 9, 2016

Tucson Novelist Thinks Maybe It's Time To Just Start Writing Porn

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Lydia Millet: Finally ready for a career that pays?
  • Lydia Millet: Finally ready for a career that pays?
Over at Salon, Tucson novelist Lydia Millet offers a modest proposal about giving up on literary fiction and jumping into writing porn:

So we’ve got the unmoving words on the page. That’s the first black mark against us. Second: do we get to the point? How soon? Here’s the answer: no. We don’t get to the point, not for 200 pages at least. Sometimes 3,600, if we’re Knausgaard. At writing workshops they taught us to show not tell — well, showing takes time. We paint a slow picture. You can see the brushstrokes. We don’t get to the point, and sometimes when we do our readers don’t notice, in fact. It’s so couched in nuance it can fly right over a person’s head. What was that you said? I couldn’t quite make it out.

Third, sound bites. We don’t have them. No pull quotes. No celebrity names. Few if any pictures. The list of what we don’t have is a long one. Our tools for captivation are few, and often ungainly.

Which is why I’ve settled on porn, come to a decision that my next book after this one will be devoted to relentless, often hardcore pornography. I can’t give you an exact preview here on the pages of Salon, of course: this is a decent website. Plus that would be a spoiler.
All joking aside: Millet's new novel, Sweet Lamb of Heaven, continues to draw rave reviews. At Slate, Laura Miller writes:

Anna, the narrator of Lydia Millet’s new novel, Sweet Lamb of Heaven, goes on the run from her husband, an Alaskan businessman named Ned. With her 6-year-old daughter, Lena, in tow, Anna stays out of the system, albeit not entirely off the grid, moving around a lot, laying low, and carefully tapping a modest family inheritance. By the time the novel starts, she and Lena have holed up in a rundown Maine motel whose gentle proprietor has a penchant for taking in strays.

That’s a serviceable if not particularly original premise for what turns out to be an extraordinary metaphysical thriller from one of America’s most inventive novelists. Sweet Lamb of Heaven’s woman-in-peril plot at first seems to lack the confidence of its melodrama. Ned isn’t abusive, merely cold and neglectful, and when Anna first left him, he barely minded the loss of his wife—“He’d been indifferent to me for a long time, as he’s indifferent to most people who aren’t of use to him”—or the daughter he never wanted in the first place. But then Ned decides to launch a career in politics, and since his platform features a Sarah Palin–esque appeal to the “sanctity of every human soul” and “the greatness of the American family,” he needs to reassemble his own family for the requisite voter-friendly photo ops and meet and greets. Ned’s slogans, Anna thinks, “felt like objects to me—prefabricated items he had purchased quickly in a store, items he was busily stuffing into his shopping cart without close scrutiny.” But she has no doubt he will try to find a way to force her to comply, and she soon learns that she has underestimated the extent of his reach.

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