Yesterday morning, I saw this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, and it's stuck with me ever since. Think what you will of Foer, but when asked about his writing, he said that his main goal is to write honestly, from a place of honesty.
So obviously, this made me wonder about my own writing. While I was in grad school, this was very important to me: to write an authentic story, not necessarily a realist story but one that conveyed an honesty. So I wrote PARABOLA and CHANGING. But since then, this need for honesty hasn't been a concern. At all. It's as if I needed to do it, and once done, it was done. That was that. The summer after grad school, I wrote THE EVOLUTIONARY REVOLUTION (which will be out with Les Figues in 2010). I had no desire for honesty. I just wanted to have fun. This, of course, does not mean that the novel is dishonest or even that it doesn't show authentic emotion (I'm talking more about process here than product), but I simply stopped caring about honesty. (This brings me another point, which I'll blog about some other time dealing with genre. I often call this a science fiction novel, but when pressed on, I have to admit that no, it's not science fiction at all. It just has non-realist characters & elements: a two headed boy, girls with wings on their thighs, an earth composed of only water, etc. This doesn't really make it science fiction though. It makes it fabulous.) I'm currently in the copy-editing stage with this book, and now, as I read it over again, even though I was unconcerned with honesty, there is a lot about humanity in there.
But moving on, last summer, I wrote INVISIBLE WOMEN (coming out with a kickass web-based version with StepSister Press in Oct. 2009). My goal here was simply to converse with Calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES, only instead of cities, women. Instead of Kublai Khan & Marco Polo, Freud & Lou Andreas-Salome. Again, I had no desire for honesty. I wanted to play, have fun, and even though honesty wasn't the concern, reading over the ms, there it is again.
And moving on again, this past winter break, I wrote OLD CAT LADY. (Don't worry. That ms doesn't have a home, lest you think everything I write finds a publisher, unless you are a publisher & want to publish my book. Then, by all means...) With this book in particular (it's a choose-your-own adventure love story), I actually tried not to be honest, but there's something about multiple endings that--whereas it's entirely unreal--is very honest. The honesty lies in the possibilities, the small choices, we obsess over, the fact that we all have regrets, desires for do-overs, mourning the loss of some small choice made wrong.
As a writer who's not trying to write honestly or even from a place of honesty, there it is. It crops up when you're not looking. So then, is Foer wasting his time focusing on the honest? In fact, if you're a writer, is it really even possible to write dishonestly? It doesn't matter how realist or fabulist your writing is, this honesty , this desire to convey some sort of truth or authenticity, keeps emerging. If this is the case, why Foer? Why waste your time trying to write an "honest" novel? Why not just write?