July 28, 1999
Post #895 – 19990728
Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
I just read 5 Novels and loved them and cannot believe that I didn’t hear about you and your books when I was in junior high (I’m 22 now)! When my network was spreading the word about Douglas Adams and Monty Python, why didn’t your name come up? I think you need to do more advertising. (just kidding)
There are two things I noticed that I wanted to ask you about:
1. The novels in 5 Novels seem to fall into two categories: those in which everything is presented very ambivalently (a lot of “sort of” and”kind of” and “mostly” etc) and those in which everything is presented in hyperbole and huge gestures and overstatement. Do you choose a style for each book before you start? The first kind seems more realistic, of course, while the second is fun in the way that riding a bike too fast down a hill is fun. I guess this isn’t really a question.
2. I’ve been noticing that a lot of my favorite authors (the one who write the books I consider magical) are also talented graphic artists: Ellen Raskin illustrates, Arundhati Roy was an architect, and now you were an artist before you were a writer. I’d really like to write kids books, but I can’t draw at all (and produce results anyone would want to look at more than once). Do you think I still have a chance?
P. S. How long does it take you to write a book? If you don’t have a standard length, can you give examples for a few books?
Maybe you weren't ready to read my stuff earlier. Timing is important. I hate and despise Walt Disney because his company made a stupid cartoon Wind in the Willows which eclipsed the book, and I didn't get to read it until I was 22. On the other hand, I knew people in college who'd read Moby Dick and the Iliad in their fancy prep schools, and never got excited about those books.
Characters I have narrate are often tentative and colloquial. When the voice is bombastic and conceited-sounding it's me. I started studying art, not thinking I had the least talent, because I had an idea I'd learn things that might help me be a good writer. Before long I forgot all about writing...for a number of years. People I've met who always knew they wanted to write, and studied nothing but writing, and persisted and persisted, have been handicapped by being completely uninteresting as people and writers. Learning to be a dog trainer has been just as helpful as learning to do art. And I never did have any talent--but it's possible to fake it if you're smart.