When she was nearly asleep, she heard voices far upstream, male voices, chanting, as if from the dawn of history. Deep, primeval. The Men were performing the rituals of manhood. But the little farts in the night were nearer and dearer.
I used to be too respectful to disagree with Tolstoy, but since I got into my sixties my faculty of respect has atrophied. Besides, at some point in the last forty years I began to question Tolstoy’s respect for his wife. Anybody can make a mistake in marriage, of course. But I have an impression that no matter who he married Tolstoy would have respected her only in certain respects, though he expected her to respect him in all respects. In this respect, I disapprove of Tolstoy; which makes it easier to disagree with him in the first place, and in the second place, to say so.
While one can imagine the lyric impulse of the poem or the meandering logic of the essay easily fits with the notions of doubt and not-knowing, the question lingers: what of fiction, the genre that is conventionally thought of as “plotted”? Should writers of fiction come to a story or narrative with a conceit or concern already crafted, or does writing through, around, and among the consciousnesses, characters, and languages of fiction reveal to these writers their ultimate uptake?