The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife - is sure to be noticed.
— Soren Kierkegaard
There either is or is not, that’s the way things are. The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it’s red. But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day. I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.
—― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
For those of you who are beginning your stories, who might believe, as I once did, when someone tells you there are certain conditions necessary to be a serious writer, a real writer, let me say: I am writing this in a dollar notebook from Staples, with purple gel pen. I can’t believe I’m still at a card table. I am not alone (my youngest is home for spring break with a friend who cannot fly East, and since they are both tall, they have just changed the burned-out porch light bulb), but I am outside, where my neighbors are grilling carne asada, and a homeless man is pausing at the corner with his shopping cart making that shimmery rattle, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.
Writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself.
Suddenly for no earthly reason I felt immensely sorry for [her] and longed to say something real, something with wings and a heart, but the birds I wanted settled on my shoulders and head only later when I was alone and not in need of words.
You can’t reconstruct a story—you can’t even know what the story is—if everyone is saying, “Mistakes were made.” Who made them? Everybody made them, and no one did, and it’s history anyway, so let’s forget about it. Every story is a history, however, and when there is no comprehensible story, there is no history. The past, under these circumstances, becomes an unreadable mess. When we hear words like “deniability,” we are in the presence of narrative dysfunction, a phrase employed by the poet C.K. Williams to describe the process by which we lose track of the story of ourselves, the story that tells us who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act.
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: ESSAYS ON FICTION
Somebody who does that. Reveals you to yourself. You can’t help but love.
I LOVED YOU MORE