February 10th, 2012 / 5:18 pm
Power Quote

Don’t Write a Novel

You can always take notes, Houellebecq had told him when talking about his career as a novelist, and try to string together sentences; but to launch yourself into the writing of a novel you have to wait for all of that to become compact and irrefutable. You have to wait for the appearance of an authentic core of necessity. You never decide to write a novel, he had added; a book, according to him, was like a block of concrete that had decided to set, and the author’s freedom to act was limited to the fact of being there, and of waiting in frightening inaction, for the process to start by itself.
–Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory



  1. bmichael

      all the porny young hot chick fucking basically writes itself

  2. leapsloth14

      I’m on the cusp

  3. Anonymous

      What a fantastic quote. Inspiring because it makes novels seem as solid and imminent as a poem (not like a document that requires sustained awareness and years of labor which is prob also true)

      What I would have given to have analyzed the “appearance of authentic core of necessity” in Lit classes rather than whatever other junk

      Also this quote reminds me of a book by Nabokov I saw in a library that is essentially photocopies of index cards towards the first draft of his last novel. Apparently he composed everything using index cards. Knowing this alone felt like a huge secret that demystifies his genius while making it closer and more overbearing

      Seems like a guy who had a lotta drawers. Butterlies, lol

      Card catalogues are basically antiques at this pt but maybe they’re the ticket

  4. M. Kitchell

      I was actually just going to respond to your most recent post with this quote, but I wanted to give it Higher Visibility 

  5. leapsloth14

      Yeh, it’s a good quote. I’ve always avoided the novel form, for many reasons. Fear. People telling me to do it (I can’t stand being told to do something). Etc. But I might be near ready. I might begin. I just try to remember Simone de Beauvoir burned her first two.

  6. bartleby_taco

      I really enjoyed this novel. If you have any thoughts on it I would like to hear about them.

  7. Brian M

      if you are compelled to create then you should.

  8. reynard

      the other day i heard something in the smell of cat poop makes people want kittens

  9. Anonymous

      I don’t think the post’s title syncs up with the quote. Houelelbwbq says “Writing a book is hard/takes time/takes patience” but never implies that you shouldn’t do it.

      If we are to presume that Title and Quote are in fact related, the way to connect them cognitively is, “Writing a book is hard, so don’t do it,” which is not a good message.

  10. Anonymous

      I don’t agree. I have read this sentiment in a couple of different forms from people that I think are pretty insightful on the matter.

      When Pynchon turned in The Crying of Lot 49, a ~140 page novella, he claimed it was a short story w/ a glandular problem (apparently that happened, not like I was there or anything), which is apparently the novella’s originally intended form. 
      I think this is more about a molecular level look at writing and lit stuff. Like, instead of trying to make a person, just focus on making a super bad ass finger. Or the best thigh ever. Or making perfect teeth. Then if you’re lucky, you get a whole body! Maybe that’s a shitty metaphor. 

      And then you win a prize. 

  11. Anonymous


  12. Anonymous

      Well, before I respond, which part of what I said is it that you disagree with? My interpretation of the quote? Or my interpretation of the quote when read with the title “Don’t Write a Novel”?

      Actually I’ll just answer both times because fuck it, why be lazy.

      1. You disagree with my interpretation of the quote

      That’s fine and I can see where you are coming from actually. I think your interpretation gives it a closer reading, like, you’ve put more energy into it than I have. I admit I didn’t give it much energy. I’ve never really given any “insightful” person’s advice on writing too much energy because the act of writing is completely personal and there’s no right way to do it.

      So I have no qualms with disagreement about the quote. My biggest qualm has to do with putting a title above it that suggests the quote means, in so many words, “Don’t write a novel.” First off, I don’t think the quote implies that at all. Second off, what’s the purpose of telling people not to do something or implying they can’t do something other than intimidation.

      2. You disagree with my interpretation of the quote when read with the title “Don’t Write a Novel”

      I think this just has to do with a basic disagreement in what I think of when I think about the purpose of writing versus what you might think. The idea of making a really nice finger is nice, I guess, it’s nice to look at a finger and say “Oh what a nice finger,” but isn’t that just one aspect of writing? Writing for a long time has been a means for movement, for progress, for stimulating thought. A full-bodied novel has a nice finger but also an arm and torso and muscles and a brain behind that finger that can help that finger jab someone, point out a problem, flip someone off. I’m not interested in writing as a beautiful thing and a beautiful thing alone. I’m interested in writing as a catalyst for change. So I’d say write the fucking novel, use the novel as a vehicle for a message, who cares if some parts are not perfect, at least it might rock the boat a bit, for God’s sake, don’t NOT write the novel.

  13. Anonymous

      “not interested in writing as a beautiful thing and a beautiful thing alone”

      Totally agree. 

      Maybe after reading your reply, I don’t disagree. But maybe my form of “change” re writing and lit stuff is that if I am told not to do something, I get curious about it. And maybe I try and do it. 

      I’m not trying to be a dick about “change” or a “message” but they are things I think about and I think about how I have no idea what they mean. 

  14. deadgod




  15. Anonymous

      I think that’s because “change” and “message” are empty words without something behind them to give them substance.

      The Jungle had a Message and caused Change. Grapes of Wrath had a Message and caused Change. Tao Lin’s writing has a Message (not one I agree with necessarily!) and is causing Change. Thomas Payne, Virginia Woolf, Barthelme… all of them had Messages and all of them made Change, but to each individual writer those words carry different significance.

      I respect that being told not to do something makes you want to do something, but imagine some kid who wants to be a great writer reading that title and then seeing it supposedly buttressed by a quote by a writer he or she is not reading in high school, and not having the confidence to disagree. Idunno. It’s not just well established adults who read the Internet, and I think this is going to keep more people from trying to do something than the other way around.

  16. Anonymous

      If you wrote a book on how facebook debilitates people, I would read it. 

  17. Anonymous

      Thanks, but how do you mean? I’m not planning on going out tonight, so I can talk shop if you want.

      Also I’m actually working on a book about how sites like these debilitate people. I can throw it yr way when it’s finished if it’s touching on the same topics you’re interested in.

  18. mimi

      pnindex cards

  19. Bobby Dixon

      I would be interested in reading something like that. 

  20. Anonymous

      I thought this quote was about blogging?