[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 21 09:55:21 PDT 2009


Bill and I hold opposing positions (I think), and I doubt if he wants  
to be confused with me.  Anyway, I agree with just about everything  
you said and was struck by how much it reminded me of Montaigne and  
his great undertaking in the Essays, namely, to discover himself.  I  
wonder, however, about being "strangers even to ourselves."  If  
there's anything I know in this world, it has to be me, myself, so I  
have trouble with the idea that each of us is as unknowable as the  
fellow next door.  I tend to think that Durrell's notion of the self  
as "selected fictions" is a way to dress up something ordinary,  
something like saying, "This self, this I called me, which I recognize  
from moment to moment, is constantly exploring the world in new  


On Oct 21, 2009, at 6:57 AM, Julia Roberts wrote:

> 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
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