|In Conversation with Annie Proulx, Garden's Theatre, QUT|
- Proulx commented that she always works on setting first, with a view that characters and stories ought to emerge out of the setting and out of one's research about a place.
- Writing non-fiction is a less personal task than writing fiction. Writing the memoir was more like a 9-to-5 job that you could put down, whereas writing fiction is something that keeps you up at night, and is more "absorbing".
- She doesn't write for publication or for herself, she writes for the story. The story is an end in itself that must work on its own terms.
- There is an architecture involved in writing stories, and it begins at the sentence level. You don't aim for the perfect sentence, you aim for the correct sentence for the story. And then you add one correct sentence to another one, and a correct paragraph to another correct paragraph.
- She has no trouble farewelling characters. If anyone had trouble killing off their characters, they could send them round to her place.
Coming down from the clouds
Yet, and perhaps because I am influenced by having met and discussed these things with Proulx, I find myself not minding the distant and rather broken perspective. The histories that frame the centre of this book do indeed make a frame: they are joined, even if readers are asked to do some of the joining work for themselves. Bird Cloud the memoir is, like Bird Cloud the house, an idiocyncratic structure with an unusual choice for a main room. But it stands up. (I would love a library as my main room.)
A question I have recently been trying to answer in relation to both my own memoir (The Promise of Iceland) and the work of others is, how does place function as a mode of characterization, including that of the narrator? Ultimately, and in this sense in keeping with Proulx's fiction, Bird Cloud is an attempt to demonstrate an answer to that question: we see characters through their relation to place, and in Proulx's case this means a passion for the stories that emerge from it.
|With Annie Proulx|