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Posted September 7, 2014
Posted September 6, 2014
Posted June 14, 2013
I must confess I didn't even know this book was a hoax when I pulled it down from the shelf at the local library. (I'd just finished two of Boyd's works -- ANY HUMAN HEART and FASCINATION -- and I was looking for something else, short enough to read and digest in an afternoon.)
NAT TATE is essentially exposition. It's a simple monograph about a relatively simple guy: an American artist who happened to kill himself at the unhurried age of 32. Problem is, he never existed -- no, not even long enough to kill himself. Consequently, we can't feel any pity. Not for Nat Tate; not about his early and abrupt exit.
We can, however, be amused at the New York art scene in its heyday.
It's a pleasure to see a Brit explode (and yes, exploit) an American myth -- namely, that money and acclaim somehow determine the true value of art. And the artists of that day? Apparently buying right into the concept with feet, heart and liver.
But quite apart from the conceit of this monograph, what do I like best about Boyd's prose? He teaches me new -- or rather long-neglected -- words. In this little treatise, for instance: "scumble"; "brimful"; "irruption"; "gnomic"; and "tetchy." In FASCINATION? "rebarbative" -- a word he used twice in that collection and once in this monograph.
I've always believed that writers are "the guardians of the language." Up until I'd read William Boyd, however, I'd frankly begun to question the sanity of my insistence on this point. When I'd once pointed out to a fellow writer that William Faulkner had used "implied" not once, but twice (when he really meant to write "inferred") in LIGHT IN AUGUST, I thought my fellow writer might just show me down from his Brooklyn rooftop garden lickety-split, yet without benefit of wings or a soft landing spot.
I like Boyd's style. More to the point, I trust him with the language. We may not agree on many of the tactics of story-telling, but I trust his general strategy. Why? Because his mechanics are sound. And one shouldn't even think about writing a story until one has mastered the basic mechanics.
And where does one begin? By reading, for starters, the likes of William Boyd. "You are what you eat, and you write what you read," I always say.
Posted April 4, 2014
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