Chuck Klosterman on scene, essentially

from Klosterman’s interview with Michael Piafsky in The Missouri Review, Fall 2008

“In essay writing you can’t explain things enough. The better you explain something, the more detailed the argument is structured, the better it is. But in a novel, you are better off underexplaining things. You can have two characters having a conversation, and it doesn’t matter if the tangible interaction is technically unclear; you can still get a sense or a feeling from it, and you can somehow understand if the interaction is vaguely about envy or confusion or despair. And then the reader . . . comes to a unique conclusion.”

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5 Comments

Filed under essay-narrative, fiction, journalism, NOTED, scene

5 responses to “Chuck Klosterman on scene, essentially

  1. David Sanders

    Good point. And a nice quote, Richard. In other words, it’s not about the information; it’s about the interaction.

  2. John

    Thanks for clarifying that I am an essayist, not a novelist.

  3. I disagree with this:

    “In essay writing you can’t explain things enough. The better you explain something, the more detailed the argument is structured, the better it is.”

    Everything Klosterman says below is true of dialogue in nonfiction as well:

    “You can have two characters having a conversation, and it doesn’t matter if the tangible interaction is technically unclear; you can still get a sense or a feeling from it, and you can somehow understand if the interaction is vaguely about envy or confusion or despair. And then the reader . . . comes to a unique conclusion.”

    And over-explaining your point is boring, no matter the genre.

    But perhaps I misunderstand.

  4. Mega dittos, Dinty. My take: he was exaggerating to make a point. Is it a point? I actually thought he was talking about the stereotype of the essay, staid and thorough, and not what he actually writes or what’s mostly being published—certainly not what’s artistic nonfiction.