Friday, March 17, 2017

not as good as Anna Karenina, though

Everybody feels the greater force of the climax that assumes its right place without an effort, when the time comes, compared with that in which a strain and an exaggerated stress are perceptible. The process of writing a novel seems to be one of continual forestalling and anticipating ; far more important than the immediate page is the page to come, still in the distance, on behalf of which this one is secretly working. The writer makes a point and reserves it at the same time, creates an effect and holds it back, till in due course it is appropriated and used by the page for which it is intended. It must be a pleasure to the writer, it is certainly a great pleasure to the critic, when the stroke is cleanly brought off. It is the same pleasure indeed ; the novelist makes the stroke, but the critic makes it again by perceiving it, and is legitimately satisfied by the sense of having perceived it with good artistry. It is spoilt, of course, if the stroke is handled tactlessly and obtrusively ; the art of preparation is no art if it betrays itself at the outset, calling attention to its purpose. By definition it is unrecognizable until it attains its end ; it is the art of rendering an impression that is found to have been made, later on, but that evades detection at the moment.
Percy Lubbuck on Balzac, characterization and foreshadowing, from The Craft of Fiction, 1921


  1. Without anticipation, who would bother to turn any page to get to the next page; the novelist's "contract" with the reader must include this kind of anticipation. Of course, then we get to whether or not the novelist is writing for himself or for others; the latter I endorse, but the former I do not quite understand. So, am I too far off-topic here?

  2. Lubbuck goes on to say that Tolstoy ignores these ideas of foreshadowing when constructing "an even greater novel [than Flaubert's Madame Bovary]", Anna Karenina.

    I think that every good writer is his own ideal reader, and every other reader just comes along for the ride later on, lucky to be invited at all.