Sunday, July 30, 2006

Russell Banks on Research and the Novelist

Russell Banks on research and the novelist:

Let me try to wrap this up more or less neatly by returning to my claim that I don’t do research. I can’t. I mustn’t. Not in the way that people who don’t write novels do research. For a novelist, research must always and exclusively serve the purposes of one’s characters, one’s narrative forms, story, theme, plot, and style. Not vice-versa. From my point of view, scholars and journalists have got it all backward.

From Russell Banks, “On Research” in Constance Rooke, ed., Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life (McClelland & Stewart, 2006).

1 comment:

bloglily said...

I think he's quite right. Sometimes "research" can be a big sinkhole. Better to wait until you must know something. Writing my novel, which involves a guy who's a spy in Bavaria in the late 1960s, I spent maybe too much time reading books about intelligence work. But after that, I stopped, and now I just look things up when I need to. Things like these: what happens on midsummer night in Germany (bonfires burning on the hillsides), what it was like to be a soldier who liberated concentration camp victims (there are many moving oral histories about this) the German word for second hand book seller (antiquariat), what the leaves of a chestnut tree look like (green!).I do so love the internet for those kinds of things and when I get to go there to look things up, I know I'm in for a happy time.