Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writer and what is written: John Donne's dilemma

Recent readers of All the Bad Things have come to me and made comments like, Gee, I can't believe YOU wrote this!  What they're no doubt getting at is the fact that some of the scenes/language in the book are raunchy, even distasteful.  How is it that a married, Christian man with three little girls can produce a work with parts that could make the Marquis de Sade blush?
I look to the poet John Donne for an answer.  Here was a pious man of the cloth who crafted brilliant poems, not just about lofty, spiritual topics, but also about topics of a baser, sexual ilk.  This fact illicited the name, Bawdy Jack Donne, as, undeniably, others cocked their heads in disbelief of Donne's literary capacity.  To be sure, this dichotomy in Donne has been and continues to be the impetus for many an interesting conversation.  What do these polar opposite writing inclinations say about the author?
I think it says that we're human beings living in the real world with all of its goodness and badness and that authors, particularly, are responsible for portraying the truth as it is and not as an idealist (or pessimist) would like it.  My character Blue Jean does what she does because that's who she is, and as such, any authorial intervention would be exactly that: an intrusion into the truth of the character.  I tell my readers that, beyond "writing" the character, I channeled the character onto the page.  Blue Jean, in other words, dictated, and I simply wrote down her words.  I had to be absent from the book for the characters to speak and move freely.  Otherwise, my values would crowd out my characters, and like anybody who is talked over, my characters would just choose to be silent and walk away.  That, as an author, is that last thing I want.


  1. I've already struggled with this with my poetry book. Readers just can't seem to understand that sometimes we do have to write 'outside' ourselves to do the writing justice. Just because there is 'bad content' in the book, doesn't mean it is a true part of my personality. I don't think anyone will truly understand how this works, though, unless they too become writers. Can't wait to read your novel, Jason. Janice said she was going to send me an ARC but I haven't received one. I think she may have forgotten ... I'd love to show case you on my blog one day after I've read it.

  2. Sir ~
    I just recently returned from out of town and read where my friend Jessica Bell interviewed you on her blog.

    I wish to call your attention to a comment I just now posted (better late than never) on that particular blog bit. Here's the URL to it:

    I hope you will find my comment worth the time to read, and I am certain that you will find the book ("Taken Into Custody") and the weblog I recommend there a valuable resource, if you are not already familiar with them.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'