Sunday, February 17, 2008

Novelists and 'dramatic writing'

Speaking of the novelist Richard Yates in an article in today's Observer, the playwright David Hare says: "The highest compliment I can pay him is to say that he writes like a screenwriter, not like a novelist. He wants you to see everything he describes. Dramatic writers find novels unbearable because novelists mostly junk word on word, incident on incident... Yates describes everything with deadly precision, then goes on cutting everything closer and closer to the bone."
I appreciate the sentiment, and share it ... though do so as a novelist who believes in the visual, in detail, in cutting things to the bone. I've seen myself as a visual writer ... it's interesting to now consider myself a dramatic one.
I grew up on David Hare ... Aged 16, riding my moped to the Nottingham Playhouse when it was under the directorship of Richard Eyre, he was one of a stable of top new playwrights promoted by the theatre. His work was revelatory to me. I somewhat wearied of it later, when I noticed Hare was achieving his effects towards the ends of his plays (it first struck me in Plenty) by larding them with false, because unearned, epiphanies. I love a fine epiphany in a work but such things need to be earned (Connor Macpherson's plays show how well they can be earned in a play) rather than grafted on with a dazzle of noise and flash of lights.
Maybe it's time to try Hare out again, and see how he works for me thirty years on from first loving him. Maybe we've aged together. And maybe I'll make a start by trying out Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road, an author Hare ranks with only Hemingway and Fitzgerald as US greats of the 20th century. I'd add to his selection, but can't argue with it, and am glad at least that Roth doesn't get a look-in.

The picture is of David Hare's writing room


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