I'm a professional liar. It's not an easy skill to master, but it's one I take very seriously. So I'm always on the lookout for ways of telling lies more effectively.
I picked up a copy of the Fiction 2011 issue of the Atlantic yesterday, and in it found two true statements about my craft. The first, from an essay about the writer's fear of saying what has already been said by John Barth (whose Giles Goat-Boy was, many, many decades ago, the first big-and-difficult book I ever read) is a quote from Andre Gide:
Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
The second comes from an essay by Bret Anthony Johnson titled Don't Write What You Know. Which, I must confess, had me at the title. Here's what he wrote:
Instead of thinking of my experiences as structures I wanted to erect in fiction, I started conceiving of them as the scaffolding that would be torn down once the work was complete.
Which is just brilliant. The critic Hugh Kenner once wrote an essay describing an incident in WWII wherein two agents of the French Resistance were sent on an important mission. Given an absolute minimum of information, in case they were caught, and disguised as tramps, they made their way across the perilous countryside. Only to discover at their dangerously open rendezvous point that their contact had been delayed but that, surely, Mr. Godot would be there tomorrow. This, he said, was in all likelihood the story that Samuel Beckett started with, before scraping off the particulars and making Waiting for Godot universal.
And rather to my surprise . . .
My own Stations of the Tide made NPR's list of the 217 best science fiction and fantasy books ever written. Actually, they're compiling a list of the top 100 but that won't be announced for a few weeks yet. And since my novel may fall off the list between then and now, I'm celebrating while I can.
Life is uncertain. Not long ago a food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote of how his mother had died of a heart attack one day while making lunch. He noted proudly that the piece of cake a neighbor had given her for dessert had already been eaten.
You can read about the list here. Or you can go straight to the list itself here.
Above: This quite good photo of me telling lies is copyright 2011 by Sally Wiener Gotta and is used here by kind permission of the photographer.