Roman `a clef – Veiling the Muse

Given the highly litigious nature of the modern world, and the endless sources of sordid, sensational and soul-searching real-life characters and situations the writer is confronted with on a daily basis, writing about actual people and events can be both a wonder and a sticky pool to wander in.

Enter literary craft left, the Roman `a clef!

French for ‘novel with a key’ the Roman `a clef is a work of prose fiction, whereby the author disguises real people of the time, with a false name.

While not disclosed, the author grants the reader some kudos on their part – there is an unspoken expectation that the audience, by way of characterisation, context and situation – will understand the inference.

There is a great joy, from the perspective of the reader, to arrive at this kind of intimate understanding between the writer and reader – the feeling of being a part of a shared, private joke, or observation. Their reward is in feeling O’ so clever in understanding it – and to this end, is satisfaction derived.

The pleasure on the part of the writer is in feeling O’ so clever in veiling a brilliant muse – without having to pay royalties, and, to protect the privacy of the person, for the privilege. After all, most great writers are rich in wanting and poor in wallet.

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

The Novel – a Middle Class Spectacle

When you’re rich, you’re busy living the life people dream about, and when you’re poor, you’re busting your guts to put a meal on the table. It could be argued then, that the success of the novel as one of the most prolific of English literary forms is that it is a site of middle class experiences and sensibilities, aspirations and of course, consumption.

The novel, if nothing else, is a mirror of class consciousness with imagined (and real) narratives that often reflect its audience’ perception of self. And why not – who doesn’t like to read and write stories about themselves to a sympathetic crowd?

While the term bourgeois is pejorative in origin, no one can argue the cultural significance and contribution of the middle classes to what the literati would consider ‘high art’.

Most novels in the western canon reflect characters’ struggles in their rise and fall of moral, social and financial status – of which the middle class experience is mostly about. So in this sense, while the middle class is often derided in popular discourse as being a rich wannabe that lacks social grace or compunction, take a minute to consider that entire industries, socio / political economies and indeed our own cultural identities are being supported, informed and shaped not by ephemeral heroes – but by the very real aspirations of people who live in three bedroom houses with a backyard and a gas burner barbie. Awesome!

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Psst! What we would consider a complex and well-structured novel today, is a result from the combination of Defoe’s sensitive understanding of social and material reality with Samuel Richardson’s (1689-1761) awareness of human complexities in personalities that struggle against private and public social forces. Love your work gentlemen!