Monday Miscellany

The Werewolf Novel as Post-9/11 Political Allegory?

If you’ve hung around Notes in the Margin for a while, you probably know that I usually don’t review fiction about vampires, werewolves, or zombies. I understand that lots of people see these entities as metaphors for society, or for the human condition, or perhaps for political and cultural decay, but I just don’t care to read about them.

Here, however, is a thoughtful consideration by Roxane Gay of Red Moon by Benjamin Percy:

By using allegory, Percy both engages and sidesteps difficult questions. Red Moon is the consummate post-9/11 novel, set in an alternate reality where a blood-borne infection turns about 5 percent of the U.S. population into part human, part werewolf beings. These “lycans” live among humans, look like them, can transform into wolves, and they have been persecuted throughout their history.

What writers see in life, language and literature

Roy Peter Clark knows that writers don’t merely look at things; they truly see:

I once heard of a clever writing prompt given to school children: “If you had a third eye, what could you see?” Writers, I would argue, already have a third eye. They use it to see life, language and literature in special ways.

This third eye has a number of different names. It’s called vision (and then revision), curiosity, inspiration, imagination, visitation of the muse. When an ordinary person says “I see,” she usually means “I understand.” If she’s a writer, she means that and much more. For the writer, seeing is a synecdochic and synesthetic gerund. It stands for all the senses, all the ways of knowing.

Take a look at his list of 50 “things I think writers see in life, language and literature.”

Thriller that delves into the dark side of fairytales

Fairy tales fascinate novelist Alison Littlewood:

Her second book Path of Needles was published last week and is a compelling read, focusing on a series of murders which, from the gruesome way in which the victims’ bodies are posed, appear to have a connection with fairytales. A young police officer, Cate Corbin, is part of the investigating team and on a hunch she calls in academic Alice Hyland, an expert in fairytales, to assist them on the case.

Fairy tales are enduring stories that deal with some of the more unsavory aspects of human nature. Says Littlewood, “I tend to write about things that personally scare me and I’m also fascinated by the fact that, despite all the technological advances we have made, there are still things we can’t explain.”

Does Prozac help artists be creative?

More than 40 million people globally take an SSRI antidepressant, among them many writers and musicians. But do they hamper the creative process, extinguishing the spark that produces great art, or do they enhance artistic endeavour?

In The Guardian, novelist Alex Preston takes an in-depth look at the question of whether psychiatric drugs help or hinder artistic creativity.