Today, on The Paris Review website, I came across an extremely inspiring interview with British writer Will Self, who’s authored numerous books of fiction, including seven novels and three novellas (his latest is called Umbrella). In the course of the interview, Self talks about, among other things, his preoccupations in his work. One of these preoccupations is sanity (which is to say insanity). And according to Self, he’s “totally obsessed” by the subject. Another preoccupation is the human body.
Of the body, Self says:
I just don’t understand why other people aren’t preoccupied by the body. I just don’t understand it. You can read novels—and I don’t read a great deal of novels—that never consider the body. In a way, it’s just as simple as nobody ever having a [bowel movement] in a book whereas it seems to me that the condition of somebody’s digestion is of almost paramount importance to their mental state. So much fiction seems disembodied to me, and so connected with a kind of cultural and political establishment, in whose interest it is that we be disembodied—particularly in Anglo-Saxon culture which is so antipathetic to sexuality, sensuality, and bodily experience.
Thinking about Self’s words led me to the prompt of the day. Which is this:
Describe in detail a character (or yourself), beginning with the body of said character. And don’t simply write about the external appearance of this character, but go internal. That is, tell not only about hair color, facial features, height, weight, eye color, gait, manner of speech, etc., but also tell about how the internal organs of this character work. Is this character’s heart functioning well? How does this character’s nervous system work? Have the character’s lungs been affected by anything during their lifetime? What about the reproductive system? Intestines? Liver? Pancreas? Kidneys? Brain?