Novel on Yellow Paper

First of all, check out the new Diversify Your Reading blog, a “a clearinghouse of blog reviews of books by authors underrepresented in English-language publishing today.” There are lists of authors and books from around the world with links to the blogs that reviewed them. You are welcome and encouraged to add links to your own reviews on the site. I just added a bunch of links today. I think it’s a great idea for a blog and a wonderful place to find out about books from a whole range of authors.

I want to write a review of Raymond Chandler’s novel Farewell, My Lovely and write about last night’s mystery book group meeting, but for tonight, I think I’ll post a long passage from Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper, which is the next Slaves of Golconda read (discussion to begin on January 31st).

I’m not entirely sure what I think about the novel, but it does have some utterly charming passages. This is one where the narrator talks about what kind of novel she is writing, and I’m a sucker for this kind of metafictional approach.

But first, Reader, I will give you a word of warning. This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into a harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone. It was a mistake you made to get this book. You could not know.

And it is not to be proud I say: I am a foot-off-the-ground person; or to be superior that I say: Foot-on-the-ground person — Keep out. It is to save you an exasperation and weariness that have now already hardly brought you to this early page.

But if you do not know whether you are a foot-off-the-ground person or a foot-on-the-ground person, then I say, Come on. Come on with me, and find out.

And for my part I will try to punctuate this book to make it easy for you to read, and to break it up, with spaces for a pause, as the publisher has asked me to do. But this I find very extremely difficult.

For this book is the talking voice that runs on, and the thoughts come, the way I said, and the people come too, and come and go, to illustrate the thoughts, to point the moral, to adorn the tale.

Oh talking voice that is so sweet, how hold you alive in captivity, how point you with commas, semi-colons, dashes, pauses and paragraphs?

Foot-on-the-ground person will have his grave grave doubts, and if he is also a smug-pug he will not keep his doubts to himself; he will say: It is not, and it cannot come to good. And I shall say, yes, it is and shall. And he will say: So you think you can do this, so you do, do you?

Yes I do, I do.

That is my final word to smug-pug. You all now have been warned.

I appreciate an author who warns me about what I will find in the book I’m about to read. As for being a foot-on-or-off-the-ground kind of person, I don’t really know what I am, so I’m coming along to find out.


Filed under Books, Fiction

7 responses to “Novel on Yellow Paper

  1. I LOVE this strange book & will be very curious to know what you make of it. It’s been Stevie Smith week more than once over at my blog, so I’m glad to see I’m not alone… Enjoy! (But yes, the room was divided in my grad class this fall–for sure.)


  2. Oh goody I thought discussion was the 29th, so I ahve more time to have another crack at it.


  3. Isn’t it nice to have a “warning” like that? I am very much looking forward to discussion about this one. I suspect there will be lots of thoughts and opinions about it.


  4. I’m not sure what I think yet, too, though I do like how she talks directly to the reader. I have a feeling this is a book that I will appreciate more when we discuss it than during the reading (but I am still not too far into the book, so maybe it will click along the way). Thanks for the link–I’ll have to check out that blog!


  5. Oh, I wanted to read this for the discussion, but now I won’t be able to. I should have read it earlier but didn’t want to forget everything by the end of Jan. And now I am totally immersed in writing and can’t think of anything else until I drop into bed.


  6. I’m halfway through now and quite seduced by it and its left-foot approach. I don’t know how Stevie Smith has done it – so artless and discordant and yet seamlessly running on at the same time. This is when I do love the Slaves – I would never have picked it up and enjoyed it so much if I didn’t know I’d be able to discuss it with my dear blogging friends!


  7. Anne — a bunch of us will be having a discussion about it starting this weekend, so join in if you want! I’m loving the book in moments, although I’m unsure what I think about the whole thing.

    Jodie — two whole days more! I’m curious what you think.

    Stefanie — I love it when authors speak directly to the reader, and I really like how Smith does it here and in other places. She’s writing about fiction as much as about anything else. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts too!

    Danielle — it probably is a book that benefits from discussion, and I’m certainly looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts. I hope you get into it and enjoy it! Or if not, perhaps we’ll have an interesting conversation about it 🙂

    Lilian — well, it would have been nice if you could have read it, but I do understand about the writing. I’m glad it’s going so well!

    Litlove — I’m glad you are enjoying it so much! I’m still gathering my thoughts, even though I’m only 20 pages from the end now. There’s much I love here, although I’m not sure the voice works for me. But all the writing-about-writing I really like, and I love the whole concept of the book.


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