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265 pages, Paperback
First published February 7, 2008
I think that novels tend to fail not when the characters are not vivid or deep enough, but when the novel in question has failed to teach us how to adapt to its conventions, has failed to manage a specific hunger for its own characters.
Many situations should be forbidden, all getting and losing of jobs, proposals of marriage, reception of love letters by either sex... all allusions to illness or suicide (except insanity), all quotations, all mentions of genius, promise, writing, painting, sculpting, art, poetry, and the phrases 'I like your stuff,' 'What's his stuff like?' 'Damned good,' 'Let me make you some coffee,' all young men with ambition or young women with emotion, all remarks like 'Darling, I've found the most wonderful cottage' (flat, castle), 'Ask me another time, dearest, only please - just this once - not now,' 'Love you - of course I love you' (don't love you) - and 'It's not that, it's only I feel so terribly tired.'
Forbidden names: Hugo, Peter, Sebastian, Adrian, Ivor, Julian, Pamela, Chloe, Enid, Inez, Miranda, Joanna, Jill, Felicity, Phyllis.
Forbidden faces: all young men with curly hair or remarkable eyes, all gaunt haggard thinkers' faces, all faunlike characters, anybody over six feet, or with any distinction whatever, and all women with a nape to their neck (he loved the way her hair curled in the little hollow at the nape of her neck).