Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What makes a novel ‘big’ or a ‘must-read’?

Quill & Quire

American author Jennifer Weiner interviews Emma Donoghue on her blog about her seventh and most talked-about novel, Room. They discuss the recent topic-du-jour, what defines a “great American novel” and if women writers are given a fair shake at writing it:

JW: Do you think Room is a big book? What do you look for in a great novel (American or otherwise?)

ED: I do see ROOM as a big book, in that it’s got high ambitions, and it’s about the most universal human issues. I tried to write on on several levels, so that one reader could enjoy it as a page-turner about an imprisoned boy, and another could recognise it as a thought-experiment along the lines of Plato’s cave. But that does mean that at least some reviews have stuck to considering it as a description of kidnapping, or perhaps seen it as a simple celebration of motherhood… when I’d prefer them to make that leap and understand Jack’s story as not just Everychild’s story but Everyperson’s too. After all, each of us is locked inside one skull. But this is an age-old argument. A woman writer, a domestic setting, and a small number of characters, often cause a novel to get mis-filed as small, ever since Jane Austen.
The rest at Quill & Quire.

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