The Saturday Writing Quote — on minor characters

House of SkyOne of my literary heroes, Ivan Doig, passed away this April. His memoir, THIS HOUSE OF SKY, published in 1979, was hugely popular in my days as a college student working in bookstores, and his portrayal of mid-century Montana ranch life is a classic. The novels I loved the most were those that, like his memoir, took the perspective of a young boy—ENGLISH CREEK, THE WHISTLING SEASON, and THE BARTENDER’S TALE. And in all of them, the minor characters pop.

On minor characters: “[I admire Joseph Conrad] for a reason I’ve never heard any academic stick up for—his minor characters, who stay on and on in the mind. I take great pains with mine, bearing in mind Lawrence Olivier’s acting advice: “The third spear-carrier from the left should act as if the play is all about the third spear-carrier from the left.”“

— Ivan Doig, quoted by Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times book editor, in The Missoulian, 5/3/15

Leave a Reply