intense sensations

Compulsory reading for all writers

Posted on: November 16, 2011

The Go-BetweenThe Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most perfect novels ever written. It has many layers and levels, thanks to its brilliant narrative structure of an old man recollecting a tragic love story he witnessed in intense close up as a young boy. It is a rare case of a complex narrative structure actually being necessary for the proper exposition of the plot. For the story is not just about what happened when the narrator was a boy, but how it changed his life as a man and how, towards the end of his life, writing about it changed him again.

It is evocative and sensual like nothing else I’ve read. It makes nostalgia seem religious and sexual desire seem pure.

The damage that is done to the lovers and to Leo, the narrator of the story, is not caused by their sexual feelings but by the constraints that society puts them under.

This is a profound work and reading it is a profound experience.

Amongst other things, it is a story about the power of imaginative writing to transform and heal the writer. This is a subject that interests me deeply.

Sometimes in my fantasies I run courses in creative writing and this is definitely one of the books I would choose to make compulsory reading for my students, for, apart from being a billiant novel, it is one of the best books there is on how to write.

Vanessa Wu has a new story out called Black Silk Blindfold


3 Responses to "Compulsory reading for all writers"

A child as a go-between for two lovers. It sounds like one of the mawkish stereotypes from the Victorian era, not worst of them though. A reason why personally I appreciate the novel The Go-Between is other. As I’ve said more than once on my blogs, in my life of a reader, I read a lot of published diaries, memoirs and letters written by historical persons or literary characters who lived in different times, and I always looked for the date 26 July in the notes, wishing to know what happened in the lives of my favorite writers and their personages on the day of my b own birth. But in vain. Without going into particulars, I never found this date; all the authors, as if on purpose, avoided mentioning of 26 July, and some of them omitted the very month July. Only in the novel The Go-Between, 26 July is the eve of a fatal day in the narration. However, regardless the highly personal reason, it must be said that although I read the novel The Go-Between in translation but it was not so difficult to understand that L.P. Hartley is one of the most interesting authors of his time. Amongst other strengths of the narration, the he reader of his novel The Go-Between could feel and appreciate his love for his native nature in the English countryside, and I agree with Vanessa Wu that the brilliant novel is a compulsory reading for writers, especially new authors. I am about to read more books written by L.P. Hartley, some day.

Well there’s nothing wrong with being personal. Reading is a very personal pleasure. But I’m sure all those authors didn’t avoid mentioning your birthday on purpose, Larisa. By the way, the title of my next story is 26 July! I hope to at least get one reader. But that gives me an idea. Do you think many people would buy a story just because the title is their birthday? Maybe people would buy it to give as a present to a loved one? Mmmm. The theme could wear thin perhaps. Still, it’s worth testing the market.

Your idea is very interesting, and it reminds of one story from history of literature. Before releasing his new play “Ivanov”, Chekhov was asked by his friend why he entitled the play in this way, using the simple Russian surname Ivanov. Chekhov replied, “Imagine, how many Ivanovs are in Russia and how many people will feel interested reading the title of my play.” (Ivanov in Russia is like Johns in other countries, and they are millions in Russia.) But this little helped to the play on stage. Of course, all the authors didn’t avoid mentioning the date 26 July deliberately, but the fact is that (I have to say again) the only book (out of many, which I happened to read), which mentioned the date at least somehow, is the novel by L.P. Hartley, and this fact in my life of a reader seems remarkable for me, and for me alone, which is perfectly natural, sine all the rest people born on the day could feel little concerned of anything in literature. This fact and my love for my main characters made me broadly use the date 26 July in my novels, and I’ll try not to miss a chance to look in your next story, entitled 26 July, but I have to say that, according to Wikipedia and Facebook statistics, the date is not so popular in terms of birthdays and events. If I were you I’d use a day in April or October as a new book title.

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