In the third instalment of 'My Genre’s Status', we speak with RLF writers who struggle against being pigeonholed, and consider issues such as the way different countries categorise literature, the challenges of hybrid forms and the need to keep pushing the boundaries.
Essays help attune the ear to the music of things. But I’m still startled — and delighted — by the sheer unexpectedness of the connections that proliferate once I start to really listen to the notes that sound in the objects that catch my attention.
Chris Arthur considers what makes a piece of literature disturbing, and asks whether writers and readers should be concerned by the rapid development of AI-generated text.
'In my efforts to be ‘the world’s amanuensis’ I can only convey a tiny fraction of nature’s wonders. My books are as much records of failing to catch the world’s whispered essays as they are transcriptions of the incredible things they say. '
Chris Arthur asks whether there’s such a thing as rules for writing, explores the enduring appeal of writers’ rulebooks, and revisits a classic of the genre, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
'What issues from my pen is like a kind of linear stalagmite; the essential sediment of its sentences built up, at least in part, from the slow drip, drip of advice from teachers, editors, reviewers, friends, and family.'
'Every now and then someone gets in touch to say how much a piece of my writing has meant to them. It's satisfying to know that links can be forged through carefully wrought sentences, so that mind can touch mind.'
'Occasionally acceptance comes first time, but more usually when a published piece appears, it will have a string of rejections trailing visibly behind it like a comet's tail. Students need to learn that this is simply part of the process of getting published.'
Chris Arthur asks how many words a writer should produce over the days, weeks and years, explores different approaches to productivity, and finds inspiration in the opposing attitudes of famous Japanese masters.
'As a struggling novice poet in Belfast in the dark days of the 1970s, I'd have been pleased to learn about the peace process... But what would I have made of news that I'd moved from poetry to non-fiction?'
Essayist Chris Arthur explores a historical tragedy with a very personal connection and questions the ethics at the heart of writing about the people and events of the past.
'Sometimes readers get in touch to tell me how they've been affected by things I've written. In the interchanges that develop I often get to know them, and invariably I learn a lot from their reaction.'