I’m very interested in the erotic, or pornography if you prefer, because it is there that the self ruptures, and many of the ingredients of the conventional novel, character, setting, motivation, are left on the floor with the clothes. Particularly in terms of a culture like Ireland, which has only a very faint erotic tradition, in the English language anyway. Old Irish literature is bursting with it. I find it extraordinary that a culture which is setting the individual up as the site of all meaning, the promotion and satisfaction of its appetites – that same culture is still incapable of having a decent conversation about sexuality and desire.
But: my own view is that men and women are not that different (with a few notable exceptions–I am not naïve about the fact that most people in prison are male, for example), or at least that the differences within the sexes far exceed the differences, on average, between them. I don’t find it at all hard to write from a male POV. It’s not a big leap. That is partly because I have always been resistant to being pigeonholed as a girl (and often resentful of having been born as one–that I chose a first name that is traditionally male is not an accident), and my sense of myself has long been androgynous.
You’re right that outside of Spain there isn’t much focus on earlier Spanish history, but then again we could say that of almost any nation. We seem to live in a world where forgetting and oblivion are an industry in themselves and very, very few people are remotely interested or aware of their own recent history, much less their neighbors’. I tend to think we are what we remember, what we know. The less we remember, the less we know about ourselves, the less we are.
Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón in interview with TMO, discussed Barcelona, the representation of history in fiction, and the influence of nationality and culture on his writing, as well of course as his best-selling novel The Shadow of the Wind
Canadian novelist Steven Galloway in interview with TMO talked about his remarkable novel The Cellist of Sarajevo
first you want to become a writer because you think you can, and because it would be neat or something, but slowly over time a lot of the things that you thought would be rewarding about being a writer evaporate. Book tours aren’t much fun or glamorous. The attention is self-defeating in a way. There are two valuable things that are left then, at least to me as a writer: first, you get to spend most of your working time in a room by yourself living in an imaginary world – something that appeals to me greatly, and a second thing is that you get to be involved in that larger world conversation about what we can do while we’re on this earth. You don’t get that in many professions. If you’re an orthodontist you perform a great an noble service, but you don’t get to participate in the same way in that conversation. What keeps me in that little room by myself is that conversation – so it’s important to me.
There is much more to Palahniuk though than just the shock factor of addressing issues and events that don’t normally crop up in literature. He is one of the leading exponents of ‘minimalism’, as practiced by writers such as Tom Spanbauer, and Amy Hempel (of whomPalahniuk said that after reading her story The Harvest “almost every other book you ever read will suck”). It’s a stripped back form where, not surprisingly, words take on an important weight. His chapters are short, and he practices what are called ‘burnt tongue’ moments, in his own words ”a way of saying something, but saying it wrong, twisting it to slow down the reader. Forcing the reader to read close, maybe read twice, not just skim along a surface of abstract images, short-cut adverbs, and clichés”.