the fact that I don’t know how animals think but I think in spirals, dizzying spirals, the fact that the WWF video of a deaf girl talking in sign language to an orangutan was completely fake, and I fell for it, the fact that, landsakes, orangutans don’t campaign for the rainforest, the fact that the good news right now is that animals don’t yet know we’ve wrecked the place, or they don’t know we did it at least, or they’d come after us, red in tooth and claw, the fact that it’s actually pretty lucky they don’t blame us for it, not like in The Birds … – Lucy Ellmann (Ducks, Newburyport)
Ducks is the result of a lifetime spent trying to figure out how to write a novel, seeing where it can go and what I can do with it. Nothing gets “decided”. These things are not methodically thought out. Writing is not NASA. It’s a fluid, organic process, and the best moments are when you surprise yourself.
I wanted to create a different kind of reading experience. I know how to be concise, but that was not the object here. I wanted a long soft slow book that the reader can float around in for some time, to sink or swim, engulfed in one woman’s thoughts.
You’re on your own with this book, no nursemaid. I think we’re all adults, and capable of much more adventurous reading than we’re usually offered. I sense people are hungry for something new, and sick of fiction that lazily kowtows to the reader or, God help us, the “market”.
Anyone who thinks writing is easy really isn’t trying hard enough.
I don’t find most “stories” very interesting. They just seem like vehicles for conveying the richer stuff like thought and mood and sensation, sounds, smells, sights, or intimacy and linguistic extravagance. So I kept the plot down to a minimum. The basic technique I used for this book was collage, allowing incongruous juxtapositions to generate new ironies and fresh directions.
My narrator could be from anywhere. We all have thoughts, memories, worries, associations, dreams. I was interested in burrowing deep into a consciousness. Don’t we all long to know what other people are really thinking? You never even know what you yourself are thinking, or not without years of therapy anyway. But we know a lot about how Emma Woodhouse thinks. It’s what novels are for. – Lucy Ellmann