Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Imagery, Stephen King, and Kate Atkinson

Images of Grace
Stained Glass by Ruth Hillers
Photo courtesy of Al Griffin Photography
“Imagery is for me of paramount importance in a text, not complex imagery that jumps up and down and demands to have its hand shaken but a more subtle web that weaves its way through, often enigmatically, and knits everything together.” (from “Author’s Note,” A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson)

For me, that is the purest pleasure in reading literary fiction: discovering imagery that “knits everything together.” Atkinson notes she too was pleased to discover references to man’s fall from grace throughout her novel and to “The ‘red thread’ of blood that binds the Todds. …” That thread “echoes the red ribbon of the long leg to Nuremberg that echoes the thin red cords of Teddy’s sheltered housing. …” The author hadn’t noticed that pattern “until the final read-through of the novel.” In other words, the imagery knitting everything together was intuitive or developed unconsciously.

Other authors agree about the paramount importance of imagery. On the subject, Stephen King has written:

“Novels are more than imagery--they are thought, plot, style, tone, characterization, and a score of other things--but it is the imagery that makes the book ‘stand out’ somehow; to come alive; to glow with its own light. … story springs from image: that vividness of place and time and texture.” 

Reading Challenge:

Read A God in Ruins. Take note of images that knit the pieces of the novel together, but Atkinson asks that readers avoid asking “why there are so many geese” in the novel. She has no idea. (from “Author’s Note”)

Writing Challenge:

Recall your favorite novel. Identify and explain the images that knit everything together.