Listening to: “Fourth Time Around” – Bob Dylan
What is it about fiction that makes it infinitely more interesting than reality? Not just reading/watching/listening to it, but creating it, too?
Maybe it’s that it has a narrative; or that it celebrates the individual, and makes him holy; maybe it’s that there are always new rules to be bent and created; or that it gives one a sense of belonging to something larger; maybe it’s that in fiction, there is undoubtedly an intelligence to it all, the divine guiding hand of the author.
Maybe it’s that it’s after 2am, and I have a zit in my hairline, and it itches, and I’m going to wax philosophical all over your face.
I guess maybe growing up consuming so much fiction–books, plays, movies, TV shows, comics, and what-have-you–I always felt like my own story was bound to take off one day. That I was the protagonist of something, who would be inevitably and inexplicably lifted from the humdrum and given a mission, struck by epic tragedy, or made to believe in something unbelievable.
But no figure has risen to give me a quest, and no one has named me the chosen one, and no coherent narrative has taken shape. This isn’t a complaint, more a realization.
I guess it comes down to this: In fiction, there is a god. In real life, there is not. And if there is, he’s a really shitty writer. Knows nothing about structure.
So for now, I guess I’ll keep on consuming well-crafted fiction, while living out my meandering real life along the way.
Per usual, ol’ Neil Gaiman puts it best:
“Of course, fairy tales are transmissible. You can catch them, or be infected by them. They are the currency that we share with those who walked the world before ever we were here. (Telling stories to my children that I was, in turn, told by my parents and grandparents makes me feel part of something special and odd, part of the continuous stream of life itself.) My daughter Maddy, who was two when I wrote this for her, is eleven, and we still share stories, but they are now on television or films. We read the same books and talk about the, but I no longer read them to her, and even that was a poor replacement for telling her stories out of my head. I believe we owe it to each other to tell stories. It’s as close to a credo as I have or will, I suspect, ever get.”
Or, this from André Malraux:
“The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our nothingness”
Or Tim O’Brien:
“Yet even if it did happen–and maybe it did, anything’s possible–even then you know it can’t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon that kind of truth. Absolute occurence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth. For example: Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it’s a killer grenade and everybody dies anyway. Before they die, though one of the dead guys says, “The fuck you do that for?” and the jumper says, “Story of my life, man,” and the other guy starts to smile but he’s dead.
That’s a true story that never happened.”
Aw hell, even some J.K. Rowling:
“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Or how about Italo Calvino:
“If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes . . . Who would move this hand? The anonymous throng? The spirit of the times? The collective unconscious? I do not know. It is not in order to be the spokesman for something definable that I would like to erase myself. Only to transmit the writable that waits to be written, the tellable that nobody tells.”
And finally, from Philip Pullman (I’ve been rereading The Subtle Knife recently):
“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.”
*The above riot of quotations and accompanying author photos brought to you by yours truly’s rampant insomnia.