Sunday, June 14, 2009

In a very witty essay written in 1935, Cyril Connolly demanded that a whole family of conventions should be butchered—“all novels dealing with more than one generation or with any period before 1918 or with brilliant impoverished children in rectories,” all novels set in Hampshire, Sussex, Oxford, Cambridge, the Essex coast, Wiltshire, Cornwall, Kensington, Chelsea, Hampstead, Hyde Park, and Hammersmith.

“Many situations should be forbidden, all getting and losing of jobs, proposals of marriage, reception of love-letters by either sex…all allusion to illness or suicide (except insanity), all quotations, all mentions of genius, promise, writing, painting, sculpting, art, poetry, and the phrases “I like your stuff,” “what’s his stuff like?” “Damned good,” “Let me make you some coffee,” all young men with ambition or young women with emotion, all remarks like “Darling, I’ve found the most wonderful cottage” (flat, castle), “Ask me any other time, dearest, only please—just this once—not now,” “Love you—of course I love you” (don’t love you)—and “It’s not that, it’s only that I feel so terribly tired.”
Forbidden names: Hugo, Peter, Sebastian, Adrian, Ivor, Julian, Pamela, Chloe, Enid, Inez, Miranda, Joanna, Jill, Felicity, Phyllis.
Forbidden faces: all young men with curly hair or remarkable eyes, all gaunt haggard thinkers’ faces, all faunlike characters, anybody over six feet, or with any distinction whatever, and all women with a nape to their neck (he loved the way her hair curled in the little hollow at the nape of her neck).”

--How Fiction Works, James Wood (2008)



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