Sunday, August 03, 2008

from a short piece by hilary mantel in the guardian review

Sentimental people will try to convince you that stories, like the act of reading, are as natural as breathing.

They say that we are narrative animals, but the broken stories of people who enter psychoanalysis suggest that if stories are natural to us they are not easy to construct in a way that serves both our sense of personal continuity and our need for freedom.

A story is always on the move, and from the author's point of view there is nothing natural about it.

Constant readers become writers at the point in life when they acquire a fascination with a process of falsification: with imposing shape while simulating the evolution of character and event, making determinations while fostering an illusion that in the next chapter anything might happen.

A novelist spends a lifetime in the business of presenting what's life-like, but not like life.

It's a sobering thought - life won't actually do.

Verisimilitude and the truth are conjoined twins, one often flourishing at the expense of the other.


Ms Baroque said...

Well, I think it's the NEED for stories that's natural - from that, you get the cultural habits that centralise stories for all sorts of purposes. We need them precisely because life isn't a neat package, as well as to aid memory, to create history (continuity, belonging), to win arguments, etc etc. Anecdote, however, is as natural as breathing, at least to some of us it is.

Then again, maybe it's a learned skill. Like stories.

tristan said...

i've never written a story

everything i tried to write at school was horribly derivative

about ten years ago i thought i might write a murder mystery set in spain but i couldn't get past the opening line which was ...

"all the world's a shallow grave"