[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Julia Roberts jroboston at gmail.com
Wed Oct 21 06:57:25 PDT 2009


Hello Everyone:  I have been following your email conversations for the last
several months.  I am not a scholar and don't possess a great literary mind
but I enjoy Durrell so joined your on line group.  I would like to comment
on Bill's question: *Do we ever know anyone so well as to say, this is the
way he or she really and truly is or was?*
I'm not sure we are capable of knowing a real person or a fictional person
other than through the lens of our own experience, prejudice, wishful or
lazy thinking.  In fiction, it seems to me that the writer attempts to
portray a character in a very precise way so that the reader will see that
person as the writer intended.  A fine writer creates a dream with language
and words and takes us along in that dream.  A fine reader tries to put
judgmental thinking aside, tries to open his or her imagination to the
dream.  However, readers are not writers; they may not be particularly
creative; may not be capable of suspending their own perception of reality
to embrace the portrayal of a character as the writer intended. We are all
influenced by our experiences.  My understanding of the characters in
Durrell's Quartet was very different when I read it my 50s from what it was
when I read it in my 30s.   Not only do I doubt that one person can ever
really know another, I think it is rare for a person to know the way he or
she really and truly is.  We are not sealed off from the world; we are
receptacles and mirrors for experiences.  Our five senses process a million
inputs of stimulation every day.  We are constantly changing even in subtle
ways and unless we are spending several hours a day in self absorbed
reflection or on the analysts couch (which may in fact create greater
confusion or lead to false assumptions), I think we can't help but be
strangers even to ourselves; to some extent we see ourselves through our
chosen "selected fictions" of ourselves.  Julia

On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 1:28 PM, Bruce Redwine
<bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Bill,
> Depends on what you mean by "just words, words, words."  Words as
> perceptions, thoughts, language?  As for Tolstoy's Napoleon, I'll be
> entirely conventional and say he's fiction, with a little fact thrown in.
>  But what about Emil Ludwig's Napoleon?  Is he fact or fiction?  That famous
> biography is fact, no?  Well, maybe, and only insofar as it's accurate.  Is
> it true?  Do we ever know anyone so well as to say, this is the way he or
> she really and truly is or was?  Here, we're getting close to Durrell's idea
> of "selected fictions," which opens up the debate.  So, we need not limit
> this idea to represented works.
> Here's a story from the newspapers of some years back.  A funeral was held
> for a successful businessman in Florida.  At the gravesite were his wife and
> children.  Also at the gravesite were another wife and children.  Both
> families had never met before.  Both women shared the same husband, lived
> fifty miles apart, and were completely unaware of one another.  You might
> say the deceased husband read Durrell's *Quartet* and decided to live his
> own "selected fictions."  So, as far as the respective "wives" were
> concerned, you might also say the man they knew was a "fiction."  He was not
> what he seemed (and here, Charles can bring in Hamlet on "seems").
>
> The confusion here arises from the use of language.  "Fiction" is a word
> with several senses, a couple of which I have just used.  I prefer to
> reserve "fiction" for the imagination.  For what the wives experienced, I
> would say they were deceived and their husband a gross deception.
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
> On Oct 19, 2009, at 6:30 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>
> Bruce writes:
>
> Bill's next question might
> be, "Why are they confusing things?" My reply, "They're just young and
> childish, or they're old and childish."
>
> I respond:
>
> That's making light of complex issue. I think. Napoleon is at presence not
> amongst us. When he appears in a book of fiction -- and he does -- is he a
> real person or a fictional character? Both? Does context really count here?
> Or is Napoleon at present always just words, words, words?
>
> And so on.
>
> Bill
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
> On Oct 19, 2009, at 8:37 AM, Marc Piel wrote:
>
> Surely they are "caricatures". The question is how
>
> far a caricature is based on reality?
>
> Marc
>
>
> Bruce Redwine a écrit :
>
> Bill,
>
>
> Back from a lecture on Tutankhamun's medicine cabinet and all the
>
> speculations Egyptologists like to indulge in.  I love it for that;
>
> it's
>
> another kind of imaginative thinking.  Never let anyone fool you that
>
> archaeology is a science — it ain't.  Along this line, I have
>
> absolutely
>
> never thought of Shakespeare's characters as "real" and seriously
>
> doubt,
>
> if you questioned your students closely, any of them really think
>
> they
>
> are.  Better question, what did Shakespeare think?  I think
>
> Prospero's
>
> stuff-of-dream speech /(//Tempest, /IV, 1, 156ff) gives you the
>
> probably
>
> answer.  Who thinks Sherlock is real?  You gotta be kidding me.
>
> And the
>
> Soaps — they're pure late afternoon escapism, mainly for
>
> housewives, I
>
> bet, bored with their lot.  No, the world would be a far worse place
>
> without Hamlet and Holmes.  They give hope and deliverance from the
>
> real
>
> world.  Remember, God is a humorist.
>
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
> On Oct 18, 2009, at 3:16 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>
>
> Bruce,
>
>
> You and Norm may not be that far asunder. Let me read the book and
>
> let
>
> you know.
>
>
> About the reality of fictional characters, I can report that my
>
> students always (maybe not always, but often) talk about
>
> Shakespeare's
>
> characters as if they are real -- same as the ladies in the grocery
>
> talk about the soaps as if they are real.
>
>
> Everyone thinks Sherlock Holmes is a real dective -- don't they?
>
>
> Would the world be a better place if Hamlet and Holmes had never
>
> been
>
> written?
>
>
> Bill
>
>
>
> W. L. Godshalk *
>
> Department of English    *           *
>
> University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
>
> OH 45221-0069 *  *
>
> ________________________________________
>
> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca<ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca>
> >
>
> [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of Bruce Redwine
>
> [bredwine1968 at earthlink.net]
>
> Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 4:44 PM
>
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>>
>
> Cc: Bruce Redwine
>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] real emotions and unreal figures
>
>
> Bill,
>
>
> Deep question.  I guess everything people perceive (very broadly),
>
> in
>
> a scientific sense, can be reduced to neurons in the brain.  Off
>
> hand,
>
> however, testing my own feelings, I don't think of literature as
>
> "unreal people whom we think of as real."  I know I'm going into
>
> another dimension, the author's Imagination, whatever that is and
>
> whatever that is in tuned to, and great authors make this transition
>
> more enjoyable than others.  I happened yesterday to take up Emily
>
> Brontë's poetry once again, and her receptivity to "the Invisible"
>
> struck me as very similar to Durrell's.  Does anyone think of
>
> Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw as "real?"  Or Justine and Darley?  I
>
> doubt it.  They're a part of Emily's and Durrell's worlds, which we
>
> readers want to inhabit, however momentarily.  I'm arguing for
>
> something mystical, which is the best way I can express it right
>
> now,
>
> and against something in Holland's line of inquiry, if I
>
> understand it
>
> correctly.
>
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
> On Oct 18, 2009, at 12:56 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>
>
>        " All my life, I've been fascinated by the way people relate
>
> to literature and the arts. As a result, I have been teaching and
>
> writing about psychoanalytic psychology. cognitive science, and what
>
> they tell us about the responses of readers to literary texts,
>
> movies,
>
> and occasionally the other arts.
>
>
>        " Recently, I've gotten intensely interested in what
>
> neuropsychology has to say about the literary process. My most
>
> recent
>
> book, Literature and the Brain tells how our brains function in
>
> special ways when we are transported by a story, a poem, a play,
>
> or a
>
> movie. We no longer sense our bodies or our environment. We do not
>
> disbelieve the most imporbable things, and we feel real emotions
>
> towards people and situations that we know are quite unreal.
>
> Literature and the Brain explains that our brains behave in this
>
> special way because we know that we cannot act to change the work of
>
> art. The book goes on to address some basic questions about
>
> literature. What makes us sense some language as literary? What does
>
> it mean when we say a literary work is good or great or awful? What
>
> brain states account for literary creativity? Why have all
>
> cultures in
>
> all times, so far as we know, had some form of language art?"
>
>
> So writes Norman Holland about his newest book, Literature and the
>
> Brain. I have not read the book, but I hope it gives us a way
>
> (another
>
> way) of dealing with the problem of unreal people whom we think of
>
> as
>
> real. I think of women checking out at a grocery store and talking
>
> about the soaps.
>
>
> Bill
>
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> ILDS mailing list
> ILDS at lists.uvic.ca
> https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds
>
>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20091021/908ca54f/attachment.html 


More information about the ILDS mailing list