February 17, 2024

"...When I suddenly thought, no, I'll go and write a poem instead..."

Thank you, Craig Raine, for restoring our faith in words! Or did he?

Craig writes,

The moral is always tempted to censor, occlude, to prefer what ought to be the case to what actually is the case. All good writers are Nietzschean in that sense. This is Kipling again, in Something of Myself : "(Also, by pure luck, I had sight of the first sickening uprush and vomit of iridescent coal-dusted water into the hold of a ship, a crippled iron hulk, sinking at her moorings.)" Not a thought for the owners, the loss, the insurance. "By pure luck ... " The true morality of art is its accuracy.
I brought this up with my therapist the other day, and he got mad and called me "a narcissist, for want of a better world."

Then I read this conversation between a writer and a psychothereapist who writes.

Therapy has an aesthetic, but it is not art. Life writing, in order to fulfill its stated aims, should be boring and incomprehensible to the anonymous reader. Good fiction should be neither. It should not hem nor haw when it comes to the morality of writing about real people. It shouldn't need to ask permission to expose. Or am I merely a narcissist seeking justification, such as when one says:

A lot of people who come to see me have no idea that I write, but if they do, one or two may say 'promise you will never write about me.' Well, that's an interesting statement. They may discover that this is how they feel at one moment, but at another level there may be a desire to be recognized and for their story, their struggle to stand for something meaningful for other people. So I understand that. But it seems to me that, once your father book was written, you've written about your experience of your father, so it's your story.
Do these questions even matter unless your someone who's spending all afternoon trimming the fringe instead of jumping in there and getting all mucky with it?

Posted by jason at February 17, 2024 07:17 AM

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