Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Laying Down Some Intertextual Licks

Oh, but I'm a big old sucker for intertextuality. Which probably shows that deep down I'm a bit of a postmodern poseur.

I've mentioned this to my agent a few times - he seems to think it's quite charming that I've buried references to the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Borges and Haruki Murakami in my children's adventure stories. Some of it happened quite unconsciously - I wrote the first draft so quickly that apart from the plot, which I constructed carefully, much of the writing came straight out of my subconscious without much modification. Some of it, however, is there quite intentionally, even structurally. I won't say what.

Months later I looked back and thought - crumbs, what have I done? I've given away A LOT of personal information here - that anyone who knows me well will be able to deconstruct. (N.B. I removed quite a bit of this in the editing process). And what the heck is the point of all this intertextuality?

Why do we do this? My agent thinks it's like a secret message to readers in the know.

Which begs the question - who do we write for?

A friend of mine knows the children's author Philip Pullman, whose 'His Dark Materials' books are (in my opinion) the best children's books ever written, along with The Chronicles of Narnia and the William books. Pullman allegedly told my friend once that in 'His Dark Materials' he'd written a book for adults that people as young as eleven also could read.

I guess I've written a book for teenagers that I hope they'll re-read as adults and go ah...now I see where you got that. My books aren't remotely similar to those written by my literary heroes, so it's possibly too much to hope the people who read my books will go on to read Gabo, Calvino, Murakami and Borges.

But if they did, it would be so, so, so cool.

Oh, I've started keeping score of people I've persuaded (mainly by badgering) to start reading Murakami and now they really like him too:

In chronological order: David (my husband), Nathan (close friend), Steve (a writer friend), Martin (close friend), Rich (writer friend), Peter (agent). Hmm, all blokes. I have tried to persuade a few women friends but they haven't gone for him in quite the same way.

I have one Murakami book left to read - After Dark. I am saving it up as a treat when I finish the current manuscript. And then it's back to re-reading him, scouring the Web for rare short stories of his and generally being a sad fangirl.

8 comments:

chika said...

After Dark is BRILLIANT!

esruel said...

Yep, it's great coming up with soemthing that fits in with what you're doing, but which also refers to something else. The main problem is one of relevance. I've done it with my latest work - musical references abound - some overt, though.
Do you think you might have made a mistake? That it might detract from what you are ultimately trying to achieve? I'm sure your editor will have a say, anyway, and help keep things right.
God, I've such a lot to read and I just don't have the time. I've read none of JKR, Pullman, Harukami. One day...

MG said...

It's more likely that no-one will notice! So far no-one has...it's subtley done. I know it's there and why it's there - that's enough for me. PC once mused about whether any readers will see it and if they'll work out why. To work out the real reason for some of it you'd need to know me pretty well. It seems to be working so far... I hope the intertextuality adds an extra layer or dimension. It isn't required to be able to understand the story though...the story is a pretty straight adventure yarn when all is said and done.

esruel said...

And I meant Murakami - sheesh!

Chu said...

I was persuaded by your cousin to read Murakami, I just haven't started yet because before I gotta finish "Love in the time of cholera", which I've been reading very slowly and attentively because I'm completely in love with the story and I don't want it to end (even though mt attitude doesn't make any sense)... :-)

MG said...

Chu - yes, I forgot about Oscar Raul - I persuaded him too! Glad to hear he's spreading the word. But LITTOC is possibly my favourite novel ever. Oh, that's to be savoured and re-read.

Oscarinho said...

You seem to have forgotten that you introduced me to Murakami as well. I've already read Norwegian Wood, Birthday Stories, After Dark, Kafka on the Shore, and bought the Wind up Bird Chronicle. I will save it for the end of the semester, since reading Murakami seems to impair my ability to concentrate on my universitarian obligations.
Hmmm, I'm a bloke too

MG said...

Yes, I did forget until Chu reminded me. But now my mission must be to convert a woman to Haruki. I tried with a couple of the people from my publishers. At a dinner the other day one of them said 'Sell him to me'. We'll see if it works...