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Thursday, 6 February 2014

for Week Five

This, of course, is the overall form of many stories.  Many of Joyce’s short stories are like this.   Arabi ends:

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

When Macbeth sees life as a ham actor, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”,  he’s thinking of his own life, of course.   He’s messed up.

An  insight, however, does not necessarily have to be pessimistic.    Many of Wordsworth’s insights about his childhood are deepening and sustaining for him.   Seeing the daffodils makes him look into his own future and see in advance the comfort of  remembering them.   

You could write a whole story, or a whole novel, which reveals a character to themselves,  or you could write a description of a moment.    Indeed any original description you can do has the effect of bringing the things or people described alive as if they’ve never been seen in that way,  or even ‘properly’, before.   

So, really, this task could be brought down simply to how to represent something or someone originally.   In the 1930s there was a school of writers about literature who saw good writing as ‘making strange’.   A good piece of writing makes us see something familiar as if it were suddenly not familiar at all.  We see it through new eyes, or perhaps through the eyes of a child.    Often the experience of a different culture can make you see your own the more sharply through the contrast.   My son is at a stage of his life when he reminds me of things like this.   For example, that for all the miracles we read about in the Bible and elsewhere,  the greatest miracle of all is that the universe should exist at all.    And this is something we take for granted every day as we chew our soggy toast and complain about the rain. 

One last point:  writing which shows by making strange does not necessarily have to be naturalistic. 

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