Most people know of the book "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen. It's that book , you know , huge , thick thing, everyone was talking about 'cause the author was mouthing off about Oprah Winfrey using it as her book club choice . The Hoo hah surrounding it brought him riches and baubles aplenty and plonked "The Corrections " in line as another contender for the "Great American Novel".
Well ,he wrote a couple of novels before that; "The Twenty Seventh City" and "Strong Motion".
Strong Motion is a particular favour of mine. For a few reasons-
I had written the first three chapters of my novel and come to a grinding holt. I couldn't see where the hell the story was going. Which meant that I didn't know my lead character enough. So I pushed the keyboard away and banged my head on the desk in frustration. This had happened before whilst forming the idea for the book, the cold steel door came slamming down in front of my inspiration, so I turned to my book case. I wanted to hear a voice that I could recognise, that would say "See, it can be done like this. Look and its good!" But non of them coo-ed that warm reassurance into my shell-like. So...I brought a load of books from Amazon on the cheap , new-ish authors and titles , classics and crime fiction ( a genre I'd never read).
When I started reading "Strong Motion" I almost gave a sigh of relief. In his story about a Seismologist and a Radio ham discovering an ecological cover up, Franzen had showed me that you can have great characters , psychological insight, good dialogue, experimentation (one chapter begins being narrated by a raccoon) and have a cracking plot.
What made it work was Franzen's confidence as a writer. I believed nearly every word (its not a master piece by any standards) and admired his ambition. It does ramble in places and I 'm sure he meant it to, but despite these little glitches I finished it with a smile on my face and experienced the feeling that great art can inspire when it touches you; you are not always alone.