the intimate exposure of illusion

The Valle Grande...a lot of space to fill

From the astute A.L Kennedy, over at the Guardian.

“Part of what is frightening about setting out to write is the more or less acute awareness that somehow we must access or tinker with our own emotions in order to portray something workable for others. This doesn’t mean, I sincerely hope, that we must weep along with Mrs Wiggins when we decide that her beloved guide dog must choke to death on a rat. But we do measure and remember and examine our feelings while we build our worlds, and people them. The whole process can give the impression it may expose us intimately. It needn’t actually do any such thing. We’re dealing with fiction here – unless the writer is a construct too postmodern to qualify for clothes and a mortgage, he or she will be out of place within it. Even if we include subtle blendings of autobiography and creation, effective writing will basically involve us in complex linguistic manipulations that we hope will provide the illusion of intimate exposure, or whatever other illusions we deem appropriate. We aren’t really experiencing anything with the reader – we aren’t there.”


This is where I am, down at the cellular level of The Millenial, trying to fuse together the various emotional elements of a particular scene between Aida and Tick.


A lot of outside static comes between the lovers, like a grainy sea – the strange near-wreckage state of world economies,  the expectations harboured by the millenial – the ‘me’ generation, the ‘work hard and you’ll get far’ generation, now the ‘worse off than their parents’ generation. The looming feeling of a curiously articulate apocalypse – this after all, was a generation that grew up at the tail end of the cold war and in the teeth of an ongoing environmental crisis; of greenhouse gas, oil spills, plastic churning in the South Pacific, degradation on a dizzying scale. And hearing in the news of the IRA attacks and the World Trade Centre, and the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan war. An ouroboros of world wide violence. And then the oddity, now become a necessity, of being able to participate in the global forum/laboratory/canvas/bedroom/ that is the internet.


And that’s before the inward disengagements, apathy, conflicting desire, self-loathing, the need for creativity in an unreceptive world.


But I am also trying not to freight them too much, to make them into only mouthpieces. How to make them feel, but not too much? To make them fall into something like love, but frailer?  It takes preparatory reading, careful manipulation, hope, so much space between each typed letter. It takes pictures of fields and the sea.



Filed under consolations of reading, consolations of writing, New Mexico, The Millenial, The Now, Theory

5 responses to “the intimate exposure of illusion

  1. All good questions here. I think restraint is one of the most difficult things to master. For me it is, anyway. But I love those books in which there is space for the reader to interpret the story and make of it what she will. When the emotions are shoved down my throat, I find the writing too aggressive and end up setting the book aside.

    • That was one of my major concerns for the first book I wrote- and so I kept everything very ‘quiet’ so to speak, even though one of the main characters is a teenager with a very difficult life. For this second one, the challenge was for something a step above that – more dialogue, of which the first had very little. I’m like you, I just can’t keep reading something that tells you what to think. Except Orwell, he gets a pass.

  2. I love A.L. Kennedy, I mean come on, who wouldn’t love the woman who comes up with, “unless a writer is a construct too postmodern for clothes and a mortgage”. Hilarious.
    I like her view of seeing the work as the illusion of intimacy, but wonder if it isn’t more intimate to her, separate from the reader, than she seems to suggest?

    Reading the all-encompassing mass that is your current work, all I can say is I want to read that! To have the disasters that have become our world as a backdrop for disillusionment and the need for creativity, a seemingly small thing amidst such despair and culture implosion…oh, love, love, love!

    • Thanks Lyra! I’ve met A.L Kennedy – she was a guest tutor at my undergraduate University, doubt she’ll remember me, and she is very funny and sharp (in a good way) in person.

      Here’s hoping my plans for the novel can be at least somewhat realised. That’s the big tricky part, as you were saying yourself..

    • Yes, that phrase caught me eye too. I’d love to see one of her stand up gigs.

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