Subversia: Discussion ThreadBy TNB Book Club
October 12, 2010
Members of the TNB Book Club received a complimentary copy of the e-book edition of D.R. Haney‘s SUBVERSIA this week. And the print edition is now on sale online at Powell’s, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. (The e-book and audio book editions are forthcoming and will be available where books are sold online very soon.)
With this in mind, we figured we’d start up a discussion thread about SUBVERSIA here on The Feed. Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves, to talk about Duke’s sexy sideways head on the book jacket, and to ponder the wonder that is Duke’s majestic prose.
And if you have any questions or comments for Mr. Haney, please feel free to drop them on the comment board below. He’ll be checking in regularly to chat with readers, respond to inquiries, fend off savage ad hominem attacks on his character, and engage in collegial brouhaha….
The book would have been perfect except for that idiot you found to interview you in the last chapter.
Hey, I’m only obliged by Brad to fend off savage ad-hominem attacks on my character, no one else’s. But to do so anyway: cut the guy some slack; he was plastered.
I’ll start a new, serious thread, then: I really loved the piece about Kerry. I’d always wondered what happened with her — in our phone calls, the subject never came up, and I didn’t have time to ask about it in LA — and now I know. Plus, it’s a great piece, maybe my favorite in the collection: a lovely tribute to her.
Thanks, but I don’t know that she would have liked it. She would probably have quibbled over much of it, in fact.
But I’m surprised that the subject never came up in our conversations. I’m sure I must have mentioned that she died, though I might not have gone into much detail. I don’t speak easily about it, and that’s the sort of thing that tends to end up in writing.
I knew of her, and that she died, but that’s all I knew. I think you told the story really well. I got a good sense of who she was for sure. What screenplays did she do? Or are we not allowed to know?
I’ll tell you at some point. I didn’t even supply her name in the piece. It’s just something that, for some strange reason, I’d prefer to keep to myself, like an Indian who doesn’t want to submit to a camera.
Very much looking forward to reading this…
Thanks, Z. I hope the book justifies the wait for it.
I am curious about your editing process, Duke. There is something to writing for a website, where the eye moves quickly and sometimes not so slowly and carefully. It doesn’t seem like you altered too much in regards to pieces that saw TNB action. Am I wrong?
Gotta go. More later.
When I gathered the pieces and reread them, I was appalled at the sloppiness of some of the writing, even though I’d rigorously gone over every piece prior to posting at TNB. Only a handful — “What Child Is This?” and “Farrah!” and two or three others — were written quickly, in a couple of hours or so, but even then I thought I was being painfully careful with word selection and tempo and balance and so on. Yet, as I say, I hadn’t been nearly careful enough, I decided, so every piece was reworked, though in most cases the result was subtle. I can, and did, spend hours on a single sentence here and a single sentence there, trying to correct trifling details that many (if not most) wouldn’t notice, but I noticed, and I would’ve considered the pieces failures if I hadn’t, to my satisfaction, addressed their glitches. There’s a paragraph in “The Uninvited” — it concerns film history and its relationship to ghosts — on which, altogether, I labored for probably a good four days; and the Norman Mailer piece was, from start to finish, rewritten, though the original narrative structure of the piece remained intact. With every piece, I left the narrative structure intact; it was the wording that changed, and, again, the changes were usually subtle. The comparison is no doubt cliche, but it was a bit like remixing an album: taking down the drums, say, or double-tracking a line or two in a vocal.
I’ve approached most of the writing I’ve done at TNB as if it were going to appear in print and not, simply, online. Not that I anticipated that it would really end up in print, or not initially; there was a point at which people began to say, off the site, that I should consider collecting the pieces and sending them to an agent with an eye toward a book deal. But even if that hadn’t been the case, I never, for instance, broke up longish paragraphs because I knew, and know, that it’s easier to read short paragraphs on a screen. Having said that, I think most, if not all, of my TNB stuff has a gliding quality — a lightness, even when the subject matter is dark — that may amount to a concession of a kind to online reading, which tends, obviously, toward skimming. I can’t see Henry James or Proust or Faulkner, with their wordiness and convoluted syntax, faring well on a screen; and for that matter, I don’t think they fare well with contemporary readers, period, though of course there are exceptions. What I’m trying (very poorly) to say is that the way I presently write (after miserable attempts at a belles-lettres style when I was beginning as a writer) is probably, in part, the result of my notion of what a reasonably intelligent modern reader wants or, maybe more to the point, can tolerate, whether on paper or a screen. I arrived at this notion unconsciously, and I can only hope that my writing hasn’t been conclusively compromised by it — that is, the writing is all lightness and no depth. I like to think the depth is there and that it sneaks up on the reader if it seems at first to be absent altogether.
But I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours, and, aside from that, I’m in a bad frame of mind, so I may have made a mess of this comment. I hope not.
I think the depth comes from your approach to difficult material, like the camp director in the opening story. It reads easily, as it should–hell, Twain reads easily–but knowing that we’re reading a story about a pedophile’s dalliances with the narrator as a child makes a go egads! Your lightness, in this instance, seems like an intelligent writer’s approach to provocative material.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to see this comment, Art. This isn’t my piece, so I receive no pingbacks, and no discussion seemed to be taking place, so I stopped checking at a certain point.
Funny that you should mention the light approach to the camp director; I was just talking about that last night. At the time I posted that piece at TNB, I received a number of condolences, and also one or two remarks to the effect of “I can’t quite get a read on your feelings.” I think it’s because people have an expectation, in stories like that one, of feelings of the betrayed-innocence sort. But I never really had the sense that my innocence was betrayed, just as I never felt harmed in any way. I wasn’t molested; I was only photographed — and not extensively or crudely. So, you know, it’s easy for me to adopt a light attitude about that incident, and if a subject is too heavy, I tend to avoid it, since it’s so hard to avoid the inherent traps.
Thanks for the comment. My poor little book is a sensitive sort, and reactions such as yours help it to feel that’s not completely a wallflower.
Don’t even think twice about your attitude with that story. The conflict is born from the tone you choose not quite jibbing with the subject matter–or does it? Do we trust that the narrator is reliable? It’s all fantastically complicated, and yet so simple. Great essay.
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