Saturday, September 22, 2007

A reader in mind

You hear this advice all the time--"Write with a reader in mind." I found this interesting thing that John Updike said about it in the Paris Review interviews:

“Hemingway described literary New York as a bottle full of tapeworms trying to feed on each other. When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books in library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teen-aged boy finding them, and having them speak to him. The reviews, the stacks at Brentano’s, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf.”
--John Updike

Coincidentally, I was a countryish teenager from a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas, depending on library-bound books for a sense of a larger world. It wasn’t Updike’s books that jumped off the shelf at me, though, and I'm still not a fan.

The library was so important to me as a teenager that I thought seriously about having a big chunk of my novel set in that building, and on a recent trip to my hometown spent a little time walking around the library and getting in touch with it again. The story ended up going a different direction, though.

More on writing with a reader in mind in some other post.

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