Sunday, August 22, 2010

DeLillo And The Physical Act Of Writing

It's time for another entry in the department I call Common Place Post. Today, it will be about the writing of American writer Don DeLillo, the author of White Noise, Libra, and Underworld, among other novels. It isn't about the literary merits of his work, but the act of writing itself.

It ran in the June 11-18 issue of The New Yorker. Again, as I've done before, I forgot to note the author:

As DeLillo matured as a writer, his detritus increased, and not just because his books got longer. Beginning with the manuscript of The Names, written in the early 1980s, he began consistently to type each paragraph over and over, often on its own page, so that within a draft a paragraph may appear a dozen times on a dozen sheets, as he works it out to his satisfaction ... The process gives DeLillo's drafts a highly deliberate pace, like a blind man tapping his way forward. It also confirms his appraise of his own technique; in a 1997 letter to David Foster Wallace (NOTE: The author of the novel Infinite Jest), he wrote that his prose is characterized by "a sensitivity to the actual appearance of words on a page, to letter shapes and letter combinations." (DeLillo saved a copy of the letter.) He goes on, "at some point (in my writing life) I realized that precision can be a kind of poetry, and the more precise you try to be, or I try to be, the more simply and correctly responsive to what the world looks like -- then the better my changes of creating a deeper and more beautiful language."

ADDENUM: Seems as if I've forgotten the year is was published, too. My apologies for that.

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