Necessary Fiction essay on researching my novel


by Scott Navicky in Research Notes

Our Research Notes series invites authors to describe their research for a recent book, with “research” defined as broadly as they like. This week, Scott Navicky writes about Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking from CCLaP Publishing.

When my publisher first floated the idea of doing an annotated edition of my debut novel, a creative misreading of Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism, I acted surprised; but in truth, I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew that if my novel was ever to be published, I would sooner or later have to deal with the issue of all of my — what should I call them? — allusions? [No, that’s not quite right.] References? [That sounds rather stiff.] Unquoted quotations? [Wow, that’s awkward!]

After much dithering, I finally settled on the phrase “scissors and paste” bits. (In a similar vein, I dubbed my unique spelling tendencies: “portmantypos.”) Of course, even this phrase isn’t original: it’s pinched from James Joyce, who once declared that he was “quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man.”

Of course, there’s another word for such literary borrowing; it’s an ugly word that begins with P. (If anyone is interested in the perils of such behavior, I recommend Lizzie Widdicombe’s article The Plagiarist’s Tale (The New Yorker, February 13, 2012). And the funny/scary thing is: while living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I knew that guy!)

Here’s the link for the rest of the essay:

Research Notes: Humboldt, or The Power of Positive Thinking

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