Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Music of Revision

Paris Review: What do you look for when you revise?

J.P. Donleavy: What I look for is a kind of inevitability, the words and sentences falling into an inevitable place that relates to what's gone before and that will presage what follows. ... This is the inevitability -- the words on the page, which lie there naturally, which don't you jar you, and find their own naturalness when they're said or read.

I suppose I think of myself as a sort of scientist, working with words, relating what is going on in my consciousness to what I put on the paper. It's like music . . . an orchestration. As in bell-ringing, when you ring, peal the bells, one echoing sound from one word will echo and sound in another. ... I work a long time on the sound-sense of words.

Occasionally I find myself trapped trying to get the rhythms down properly and sometimes something just won't work. There's one spot in The Ginger Man that I've never been able to solve to this day. It isn't perfect. ... In some ways, I was relieved to know, coming back to that passage ten years later and deliberating over it again, that it couldn't be solved even now till this day with what one assumes is one's accumulated masterliness.

~ The complete Paris Review interview.


motherwort said...

Not sure I agree with the scientist analogy, but I wholeheartedly embrace those words that, "find their own naturalness when they are said or read." At the best of times, when the Muse has blessed us, there is indeed music on the page.

Mark David Gerson said...

Perhaps "scientist" in the best sense of the word -- someone always searching...someone striving for new discoveries...someone on the cutting edge of his/her discipline...someone always seeking excellence.