27 February 2013

inoculation against the difficult, liminal world

"It seems to me now that part of the compelling power of Sweet Valley High’s vision of identical twins lay not in the obvious assignation between our split selves (id and ego), but instead, in the ways in which writing itself—real writing, difficult, strenuous, hard-won, “under your own name” writing—always stands in an uneasy relationship to its enchanting, seductive, rule-bending twin. The one who always seems to win, to get away with it—as if, in the end, only a toss of a golden head or the sparkle of an aquamarine eye can carry the day. The theorist George Lukacs called the “entertainment novel” the “caricature” or bad twin of serious fiction, and in a sense, for me at least, that was both the allure and the potential hazard of ghostwriting mass-market books. I wanted, as long as I thought I could risk it, to stay in the pastel, exclamatory world of the light and the popular, the world of fast cars and faster verbs, the world where difference was traded for sameness and the blondes triumphed and the eyes sparkled and the parents stayed married and the brother stayed away “at college” and the paralysis was curable and anything and everything could be resolved by the final chapter. I wanted the machine of narrative to work the way popular literature has it work: difference going in one side, and out the other side coming the reassurance of sameness. The same people, the same formula. You can do this, the books hummed to me as I wrote them. You can do this, they hummed to the girls who read them. They promised a way of being. A kind of inoculation against the difficult, liminal world of the real. A world we sometimes know only in relation to the fantasies that counter it. The pastels that turn it gray, rendering it more ghostly than we would like. Or sometimes bear."

From The Ghost Writes Back by Amy Boesky, an excellent read about her experience ghost writing fifty of the Sweet Valley High books. (Oh how I devoured those books!)

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