How Orhan does it

Manuscript page from Orhan Pamuk’s notebook for “The Black Book.”
“There is no constant formula. But I make it my business not to write two novels in the same mode. I try to change everything. This is why so many of my readers tell me, I liked this novel of yours, it’s a shame you didn’t write other novels like that, or, I never enjoyed one of your novels until you wrote that one—I’ve heard that especially about ‘The Black Book.’ In fact I hate to hear this. It’s fun, and a challenge, to experiment with form and style, and language and mood and persona, and to think about each book differently.” —Orhan Pamuk

This reminds me of a Stephen King anecdote he tells about being accosted by a woman in a shop who told him she didn’t like his writing, didn’t ‘go in for all that horror.’ He was pleasant and gracious about it. Everyone has their different tastes, kind of thing. But when he asked her what she did like reading, and she said The Shawshank Redemption ‘stories like that’ and ‘you should try writing something like that’ and he said he DID write it and she said ‘no, you did NOT’ it’s a pretty good story.

The 2005 Paris Review interview is here.

If you are interested in experimental form, I’d suggest My Name is Red. If you prefer a more accessible read, then Snow or Silent House. If you don’t mind a read where there is an enormous ‘dead patch’ in the middle that somehow replicates a particular experience of longing and boredom and wasted time for you, then The Museum of Innocence is a wonderful read and my favourite in addition to Silent House. I loved it myself though another friend had to stop reading it mid-way through. It’s one of very few novels that took me to so many places in the experience of reading it quite apart from the story — from edge of seat stuff to the feeling that I was sitting with the protagonist Kemal for years as he sat with his beloved’s family, not seeing her, but still visiting her parents. Years of watching TV, going upstairs to her bedroom and touching her things, stealing a comb here and there, a hair pin (items like this are collected and displayed in Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, a real museum curated by him, which exhibits all the same sorts of things belonging to Füsun.)

I’m upset the museum wasn’t open the last time I was in Istanbul but it means I have something to look forward to the next time I’m there. Having lived in the city several times, I have been all over and know it pretty well. It’s delicious to think there’s something that would almost certainly be a really resonant experience waiting there for me.

Pamuk also wrote a memoir called Istanbul which I haven’t read but I’m sure it’s wonderful.

2 thoughts on “How Orhan does it

  1. I love that manuscript page, Jenny! I think like that sometimes.

    The Stephen King anecdote is great (I also loved Shawshank and didn’t know at first that it was a Stephen King story!) 😉

    1. You were the woman in the shop? Haha. It is a great manuscript page, to me it shows that he’s a fluid open thinker, all doodley and loose. Letting himself follow what might be crazy pathways but could yield good writing ideas.

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