“Narrative psychologists have pointed out that novels, with their conventionalised plot-lines and highly suggestive myths, provide powerful, often normative models for our own self-narration and interpretation of the past. Apparently, when interpreting our own experience, we constantly, and often unconsciously, draw on pre-existing narrative patterns as supplied by literature. Thus, by disseminating new interpretations of the past and new models of identity, fictions of memory may also influence how we, as readers, narrate our pasts and ourselves into existence.”
Birgit Neumann, The Literary Representation of Memory
I loathe the day a manuscript is sent to the publisher, because on that day the people one has loved die; they become what they are—petrified, fossil organisms for others to study and collect. I get asked what I mean by this and that. But what I wrote is what I meant. If I wasn’t clear in the book, it shouldn’t be clear now.
I find that Americans, especially the kind of people who write and ask questions, have a strangely pragmatic view of what books are. Perhaps because of the miserable heresy that creative writing can be taught (‘creative’ is here a euphemism for ‘initiative’), they seem to believe that a writer always knows exactly what he’s doing. Obscure books, for them, are a kind of crossword puzzle. Somewhere, they feel, in some number of a paper they missed, all the answers have been given to all the clues.
They believe, in short, that a book is like a machine; that if you have the knack, you can take it to bits.
John Fowles, writing in 1966, an essay from Wormholes, written just before releasing The French Lieutenant’s Woman for