The Amazing Adventures
of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
You can be rather didactic at
times and you sometimes write as if for the masses with
above-average vocabularies, but such things aren't a problem if
you don't plan to sell the works outside that stratospheric realm
I worry about that. Sometimes
I think I should 'dumb down', but that would be phoney. That's the
way I write — it's natural for me. I mean, I don't comb the
theaurus looking for impressive words, and I'm didactic (love that
word) to the extent that I really happen to enjoy that sort of
thing in what I read.
I've read stuff by authors who
seem to be trying to impress their readers with two-dollar words,
and it pisses me off. It's pretention for the sake of pretension.
The crap I use just comes to me as being the most appropriate
thing to say at the time. I think it doesn't sound forced
— but I don't really know how it plays for others.
Hmm… I sometimes comb the
ol' mental thesaurus to find a more commonplace word to use, but
when there isn't one.…? Ta hell widdem. Let 'em look it up or
grasp the meaning via context. If they can do that, it won't look
too alien to them.
I don't mind challenging
readers. Hell, it's almost a duty, as far as I'm concerned. It's
possible that there might be a lot of potential readers who aren't
necessarily 'stratospheric', but like to think that they are. If
so, they'll carry the book around conspicuously so as to let
everyone know how brainy they are.
As for the chromedomes who do
actually seem to comprise my audience so far, there's not much
else for them to choose from as far as silly fiction is concerned.
If you can snag all of a limited audience, then you'll do
well — especially as the Internet becomes more important as a
way for people to find the things they're most interested in.
Look at Mac and his Hatz book.
I guarantee I could poll a thousand people in my neighborhood with
a good chance of not finding a single one of them that had the
slightest fucking idea of what a Hatz is (I'da been one of them a
few months ago). But I'll bet you anything that Mac's book will
sell out to the cognoscenti. It will be the springboard to his
eventual success as a novelist, the all-important foot in the
The didactic nature of my work
is completely intentional. It is, at heart, political and social
commentary. It's an extended metaphor and something of a
thought-experiment. Not all of that is apparent at first glance,
and much of it hasn't been fully developed yet, but I'm
deliberately trying to make some points.
There has been a great deal of
literature in a similar vein, from Jonathan Swift to — well, I
don't know — someone contemporary. Like Mark Twain's Huckleberry
Finn. It wasn't just about a couple of people floating down
the Mississippi on a raft. You can get all fucked up and twisted
over 'hidden meanings' to books, but I think that a core message
or set of values or cultural self-examination gives an edge to a
book. You have to, as an author, actually think about what it is
that you're writing. This type of thoughtful design is made
manifest in the finished product in the same way as a finely
developed backstory, lending substance and weight to what
otherwise is silly, fun stuff.
I think I was knocked out by
my latest obsession [Kiki's Delivery Service]
primarily because it addressed a lot more than was evident on the
surface — that there was something subtle going on underneath. I
sometimes find this kind of thing in the most unlikely places, and
it's exciting to me when I do.
The whole Tolkein phenomonon
was a reaction to the idea that a fairy story could have some
depth. Old JRR took somehing like fourteen years to write the
whole thing, and spent a lot more time writing about it (to
guys like C.S. Lewis) than he did actually writing it. Talk about
pretentious — and he certainly didn't 'dumb down' to reach a
mass audience. The masses found him, mostly by word of
mouth over many years. The aftermath spawned thousands of cheap
imitations — very few of which touched the solid basis of
carefully thought-out theological philosophy that was its
Some of his notes and
correspondence on just such matters were published by his son,
Christopher (I read through it recently and it's very obtuse). If
most people who read the trilogy had had to endure this stuff
beforehand — or even was aware of it — I think they would have
avoided Hobbits altogether. Yet without this kind of thing upon
which to build a world, it would have been trifling and empty.
I'm not comparing myself to
Swift, Twain and Tolkein. But why not follow good examples?
See, this is the kind of stuff
the Cryptoaliens were looking for in a native guide…
Damnright. Makes perfect
sense. Why get some half-assed, semiliterate native when you can
get a wordy one?
Fact is, Toomey, that your use
of words not in common usage doesn't usually look contrived
and most people won't have to interrupt reading the story to find
a dictionary because the immediate context supports the word well
enough to infer meaning. That is where the pretentious tend
© Patrick Hill, 2000