Saturday, March 7, 2015
allow me to write of other people's experiences
Henry Kingsley had never written a book but then he went to Australia and afterwards he did it. The same for Mary Theresa Vidal and Caroline Leakey. Australia convinced them to commit violence on their own unblemished previous records of not publishing books. It was a great silent continent, thinking of the quiet of the deserts. Longus of Daphnis and Chloe hopes at the end of his preface that fiction will not derange his mind with alien ideas. "I hope that god will allow me to write of other people's experiences while retaining my own sanity" (tr. Paul Turner). But the others are not afraid of that possibility at all: they have been stimulated or shocked and they drive ahead without a fear of their own characters; they don't worry about their sanity: they are reassured that they are quite strong or else they are insensitive to this form of brutality, and Longus was as well, if you read those words as a rhetorical gesture rather than a serious statement of feeling.
The readers are the ones who obsess and go deranged over characters, writing fanfic as they do, not being able to absorb or possess the characters themselves because their beloveds are already tied up with another, and will always be so, no matter how diligently they press towards them, and the author is not interested in that character by now, and would let it free if they could, for the fanfic writers to take (if they want it so much), but they can't, the characters can't be released, any more than you could pull out a word somehow and give it to somebody (André Maurois, in his autobiography, suggests that when you are a child words are not so much meanings as fields of emotion and that some children, in this respect, never grow up).