Heart of Glass: Literary Criticism Cheat Sheet

Heart of Glass is a dark tale about obsession, greed and music. It is a pacy literary crime noir thriller exploring the darkness in human nature. It contains Realism, Drama, Tragedy, Horror and Gothic elements. It is loosely naturalistic as a genre, which means the narrative style is straightforward American vernacular prose about mundane things in a way seemingly devoid of sentimentality, emotional investment or attachment. It is written in first person narrative. The characters are products of their environment and their upbringing, and they behave exactly as they please i.e. badly.

The character of Li-an is inspired by the titular character in Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola, a spoilt, immature beautiful woman who does one bad thing after another and another until she cannot stop. She is miserable from doing these things, yet she cannot stop. This is due to her naivete, selfishness, her lack of education and her greed.

Such a thing as a ‘good character’ is impossible to find in Thérèse Raquin as in Heart of Glassthere are just evil and less evil characters. In Thérèse Raquin, all characters are accomplices in some way or another of the murder of Camille, even Camille himself. As in Heart of Glass, all the characters are only concerned about themselves, their own interests. This leads them to cause crazy and intolerable situations in an endless chain of guilt-ridden activities. Survival is the main objective for each character. In Thérèse Raquin, death freed Thérèse and Laurent of their crime, and futile remorse after months of mutual hate and misbehaviour. In Heart of Glass, Paolo’s true love and forgiveness save Li-an and freed her from her obsessive and unreasonable behaviour. The other characters including Ben her accomplice and her Achilles heel, are all guilty or less guilty. Camille, Madame Raquin, Thérèse and Laurent are all victims and guilty; even secondary characters can be accused of selfishness looking just for self-satisfaction.

Emile Zola is one the finest voices in literature and one of my heroes: “I have simply done on two living bodies the kind of analysis that surgeons do on dead bodies.” He aims to strip away the usual literary polite nonsense of describing people to get at the truth of “the human mechanism”. Hence Zola writes about brutality without judgement, without contempt. As a writer what I have written about in Heart of Glass has no sermon, no moral code. The clue is in the title. Warning label: Heart of Glass may shock.

I am not attempting to pass judgement or inflict my own values. The human problem is not of God and morality. It is of the psychological condition. The reader will be coming along for the ride to experience the horrors and the brutality as my characters and I experience them. The reader is trapped inside a world of despair and desperation of the bad character, the human beast. The idea is to explore the beastly character who gets worse and worse until her heart changes what it desires. 

Which brings me to the final point: is there redemption in crime noir or crime writing? What if there is none? What if there is no solution to evil, no Jesus, no Buddha, no saints in this story, only sinners?

Painting: Sobbing Woman in Bed by Edward Munch.

Why do I Write or Feel I Must Write?

Because it is very stupid. I could be doing a million other things, enjoyable things, non enjoyable things, things which could even make money.

As I am approaching 41K WC of my FD WIP*, I begin question my own sanity again. I do not know what it is that makes me write. I really hate it. Like Dorothy Parker says, I hate writing but I like having written. I did not choose writing. Writing chose me. (why, or why didn’t banking or dentistry choose me???) When I first started doing it at age 8, I thought that this is what everybody did in their spare time and later on, as a youth and as an adult, I did it secretly, like it is drug, or self-harm. I knew it was bad but I carried on.

Why I am trudging along, still another half to go of this new novel:

Because

a) I need more practice

b) I want to meet a community of writers, fellow-sufferers, cheerleaders, like-minded mentally ill people, deluded with same goal but different delusion people. I want to ‘join the club’,

c) I wrote two books and several short stories. My first novel and one of my short stories have won international awards. Other short stories were published. Now only I can see people value what I’m doing (“I think she can write”) therefore it is worth continuing. Readers I do not know in person tell me they like it or they hate it. But I have readers! 

d) I need to improve my confidence because each day I wake up I have to start again vis a vis Groundhog Day effect. Ultimately goal is: to write everyday (making it a habit). Doesn’t matter good or bad.

e) it appeals to my vintage and frugal lifestyle. I am not a photographer or painter or classic car collector. You don’t need anything but a brain and a computer to write, so its saves space and expenses.

Yesterday (what wedding? You mean there was a wedding yesterday?) I wrote 821 words of my WIP. Woof! So here you have it. The reasons.

 

 

Carefully compiled footnote:

K= thousand                     WC = Word count                        FD = First draft                                 WIP = Work in Progress