The Fascination of What's Difficult

Charles Butler hannibal at
Mon Feb 16 04:57:11 EST 2004

People who inflict their technical challenges
> on the public very often have that effect on me: I am singularly
> unimpressed by things being done merely because they are difficult, and I
> don't generally give a tinker's cuss about the motive, I am interested by
> the results.

Moving on from Haddon, about whom we clearly shan't agree or maybe even
disagree in a particularly interesting way, this question of technical
challenges intrigues me. Being difficult for the sake of it cetainly isn't
an endearing quality, and neither is presenting to the public the results of
a technical challenge one has failed miserably to rise to. And some
challenges are just pointless - like that French writer (who was it?) who
wrote a book without using the letter 'e', and was hailed as a genius for so
doing - my ars (poetica)! On the other hand, DWJ is a writer who continually
sets herself technical challenges - and when they come off (as they mostly
do, with her) I usually feel that these challenges (e.g. writing a person
with more than one set of memories in F&H, or the sheer complexity of times,
plots, etc that is Hexwood) has helped the book. Not because it's clever in
itself - though it is - but because it's acted as a catalyst to lead her
(and hence us) on to other insights, or at least woken us a little from the
'fascination of habit', to look at the world otherwise.


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