[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Julia Roberts jroboston at gmail.com
Thu Oct 22 06:58:57 PDT 2009

Bruce:  I wouldn't go as far to say that each of us is as unknowable to
ourselves as the fellow next door.  Instead, I think of Pursewarden saying
"There is no Other; there is only oneself facing forever the problem of
one's self discovery!"  This discovery process is ongoing - yet a challenge
because ordinary life encourages one to find certainties or truths if you
will.  How difficult it is to avoid conclusions, to observe without judgment
one's own evolution and not tire of the constant growth, not yearn for
stasis.  And with respect to ever really knowing another, I think of Justine
saying to Darley "You see a different me.  But once again the difference
lies in you, in what you imagine you see!"   Perhaps one reason I so love
Durrell is that his writings remind me that I should not get too comfortable
in my assessment of myself or others.  Also in Clea, this reference to the
intrusion of the past on our perceptions of the present.  "With every
succeeding mile I felt anxiety and expectation running neck and neck.  The
Past!"   What would relationships be, especially intimate ones, if we could
on some level view each person we suppose to know as if we had just met him
or her?  How would one's own journey to self knowledge be affected if it
weren't influenced on every level by the past?  Just a few ruminations
stemming from my reading of Clea.... Julia

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 12:55 PM, Bruce Redwine
<bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Julia,
> 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
> situations."
> Bruce
> 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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