Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for November 12th, 2017

A choice of forms

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I find I need both forms [the theater and the novel] to satisfy me. Ideas which essentially comment on manners seem to belong in the play form—you need the physical contact with your audience, get them where they can’t miss the direct punch, then let them think about it afterward. Like all forms of satire, it is necessarily unfair, yet quite as fair as the Pollyanna treatment. The form which allows me second thoughts as well as first is the novel—here a character may receive more justice; what he intends to do, what he meant to be, what others think of him are as important as what he does and says; the line he would damn himself with on the stage may be explained by a quick trip through his mind, the novelist’s privilege.

The drama form—far easier and more agreeable to me—appeals to me as achieving its ends more quickly and powerfully. The writer has only to present his one side, the audience and critics do the novelist’s job of filling in, making excuses, seeing the other side, defending whatever characters they feel best equipped to understand. This public willingness to take active part in an artist’s creation seems to make the drama a better medium for social satire. God knows that by the time the various producers, readers, agents, actors, directors, critics, technicians, etc., have gotten a play before an audience the thing practically amounts to a mass movement.

Dawn Powell, in a letter to Barrett Clark

Written by nevalalee

November 12, 2017 at 7:30 am

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