Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Patron Saint of Revision

The wonderful photographer Nancy Crampton just sent me this photo of yours truly and Peter Matthiesen at the National Book Awards ceremony. I think we look a bit like two old Chinese poets briefly returned from exile to meet at some ceremony the emperor's conducting. I've been thinking about Peter's astonishing project in SHADOW COUNTRY -- taking three novels published years ago, revising and condensing them, letting go of literally hundreds of pages. This is one of the more commercially unlikely projects I can think of; I can only imagine a somewhat tentative response from an agent or editor presented with such a prospect: I'm rewriting my three old novels, okay? And it's artistically brave, too, to acknowledge that we seldom really feel done with anything, and to attempt to go back and get it right, or at least make it better.

And look what happened.


Nancy Devine said...

i simply cannot wait to tell my students the part about "letting go of literally hundreds of pages."
"that we seldom really feel done with anything..." will be uttered at eight am monday.
great photo.

Anonymous said...

Matthiesen is a great, great writer. I read the original series and didn't find it too wordy, but then I'm clearly a weirdo - I read poetry for pleasure, too.