Saturday, 9 May 2015

At Lumb Bank 4

Walk along the river, mroning

This from home, about a five hour journey. I generally attend my fellow tutor's sessions but the pattern this time was not to do so, however I did attend Monique's workshop on persona and character which began with archetypes as the basis of all fiction and moved onto stereotypes. We considered the relationship between persona and character-as-reality, and how the former would slip under stress to reveal the latter.. We looked at two pieces of literature: the entrance of Sally Bowles in Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, and the very beginning of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. We were then invited to consider the figures of Bowles and Ignatius J Reilly in terms of archetype and how the characters became fascinating through their departure from but reference to archetype (Bowles as whore, Reilly as clown).

After that Monique asked us to choose from among a series of photographs of people and to fill in a questionaire relating to pissible background, character traits and so on. It was very interesting and I'm sure everyone found it helpful.

I'm not a novelist, of course, and it may be because I have no great belief in the idea of a 'real' character under a specific 'persona'. I don't expect that is the only reason though I fully accept that it is what makes fiction work. It may also explain why I am not primarily a reader of fiction.  The great books are, of course, the great books, and outstanding novels are outstanding. They do, no doubt, involve the creation of great characters but have always seemed to me the creation of a world that does not claim to be a copy of ours but the creation of a new one that is a product of the imagination.

My doubts about persona and character, other than as conventions, proceed out of the suspicion that we have various personae in various situations and have little sense of the character as truth. I have no real grasp on the 'real' character of even my nearest and dearest, not even of myself. A proposition such as 'the braggart X is eventually shown to be a coward' fills me with uncertainty about either side of that proposition.

It is the convention of realistic fiction that hazes me a little.  The 'let's pretend it's real' element is too conspicuous for me. Mine is a purely personal feeling, of course and is probably what made me a poet than a novelist in the first place.

Having said that both Toole and Isherwood are wonderful writers and afford enormous pleasure at real depth. That is, in all likelihood, a product of the archetypes at play (I have no quarrel with archetypes at all) but also becaue both writers are in thrall to something in the world itself, in other words, with a sort of poetry.

I am aware that this is far from a convincing case but the truth I am seeking is somewhere in it.

But the chief point of Monique's workshop is absolutely convincing: it is hard work, proper research, sheer graft. No short cuts, no just starting and hoping. Very true.

The afternoon one-to-ones were followed by the evening readings. Spirits did not needto be raised but these would have raised anyone's. People just starting to write had made enormous strides - not so much strides as leaps. How extraordinary that thin line between between incomprehension to understanding, from little idea to shows of considerable skill. It is, I think, not so much the gaining of something new but a removal of something that serves as an obstacle.

This morning the farewells, warm and genuine. I am a firm believer in Arvon. I should try to write another post explaining why. In the meantime thank you, Arvon, thank you dear students, thank you, Monique.


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear George

Novelists' sheer dedication to their craft never fails to amaze me. I can't even write an e-mail without repeating myself. I am always far more impressed by a good novel than an equally good volume of poetry.

Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish

George S said...

You should be following a novelist, Simon,rather than a poet.

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear George

I can write poetry but not novels. I think that we are always more impressed by what we can't do ourselves than what we can. Besides, the poetry world is always good for a sardonic laugh or even a wry smile!

Best wishes from Simon

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear George

Besides I have now written and published twelve volumes of poetry and three of aphorisms. I don't think that any fair-minded person could accuse me of being a dilettante. Indeed I know many people who call themselves poets who have written much less of it than I have.

Best wishes from Simon