The Writer’s Trade by Nicholas Delbanco, 1988
The magic trick:
A linear, but not overbearing, path toward character development
Another inside baseball story here about what it’s like to be a writer. But I like these, so I don’t mind the naval gazing, even as I understand where someone else might be a bit put off.
Essentially, Delbanco develops his story linearly through the protagonist’s first novel, first ecstasy of fame, first disappointment of fame, tremendous humbling and finally, what is the trade of the title, the willing giving over of one’s life in the pursuit of truth through literature. No fancy tricks. A couple key scenes (the train crash) and relationships (the agent, the sexual encounter), and boom, we have character development. Very nicely done. And that’s quite a trick on Delbanco’s part.
Between self-pity and aggrandisement, there is little room to maneuver. His stomach churned; his felt felt rank. The train was old. Mark wandered to the forward car; the conductor waved him in. The gray seats were unoccupied, the windows dark. He sat sprawling in the windowseat while the train filled up.