Wednesday, March 16, 2011

They're Alive!

I came across this paragraph about fiction recently, thought it was just brilliant and had to share it. It was from a review in the Financial Times by Lionel Shriver of Siri Husvedt’s new novel The Summer Without Men. Here you go:

Fiction relies on a baffling alchemy. At some point in the narrative, and with the best of books from the very beginning, a story the author cheerfully, even formally, concedes is invented seems actually to have happened. Through the aegis of our eagerness to be fooled, confabulated characters walk about in our heads with the authority of our own friends and relatives. It’s a wonderful and mysterious process, one I don’t pretend to understand.

Shriver goes on to say that “sometimes it doesn’t work” but that isn’t what interests me. I just loved how she expressed the role that fictional characters can take on in our lives: “confabulated characters walk about in our heads with the authority of our own friends and relatives.” That is how I feel all the time about my favorite characters. It’s my favorite part of reading fiction.


Sarah Laurence said...

Lionel does have a most lovely turn of phrase; she’s a true wordsmith. Thanks for bringing this delicious tidbit to my attention. I love Lionel’s writing, both her novels and her reviews/articles. I met her once in England, and she’s even more engaging in person.

I do enjoy how characters come to life in other people’s books, but in my works in progress it can be rather unsettling when these “confabulations” wake me up in the night with their chatter. It’s a haunting, forcing me to keep note cards and a pen at my bedside. Then again, I know a character is working when that happens. It’s the thrill of writing fiction, even if it interrupts sleep.

LINDA from Each Little World said...

Great quote and so true. I can't count the number of people (and for me, houses and gardens) that I accept as real.

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