“Then there was the problem of the fucking seeds.”
The Millions interviews author Ben Marcus and asks him in part about developing style across his works. Link via Lindsay. I have never read Marcus, but I love his answer. Adding a few paragraph breaks to it:
The simple answer is that I have changed my techniques in order to avoid the relentless sameness of my material, but I have probably only found new costumes, not new creatures entirely. In the past, if I wanted to sound a note on a piano (in prose), I didn’t just have to purchase and install the piano, I had to build it. But before I built it I had to grow the trees whose wood would yield the piano, and probably I had to create the soil and landscape through which those trees would burst. Then there was the problem of the fucking seeds. Where did they come from? I had to source them.
With such mania I was either onto something or I completely misunderstood what a fiction writer was supposed to do.
Simple things, even entirely undramatic ones, could not occur unless I created them from whole cloth. I was superstitious about taking anything for granted, but it also locked me into a kind of fanatical object fondling that could, on a bad day, preclude any exploration of the human (even though the process of trying to remake the world on the page is fairly, pathetically, human).
This set of interests kept me away from what is usually called narrative. It wasn’t some ideological position, or an artistic stance, it was just one set of obsessions winning out over another. On the other hand, I think that I have always tried to create feeling, and then to pulse it into the reader with language. It’s very difficult to figure out how to do this.
Storytelling is one way — conventional narrative or whatever you want to call it — but are there other methods worth exploring? The ground shifts, and I change my mind about what might work. How to create immense, unforgettable feeling from language? This ambition hasn’t really changed, it’s just that I want to cultivate new approaches, to try to circle in on a more vivid way to accomplish it.