Fiction, perspective

“Fiction… addresses our love of the truth – not the mere love of facts expressed by true names and dates, but the love of that higher truth, the truth of nature and of principles, which is a primitive law of the human mind.” (James Fenimore Cooper)

This comes from the author’s note in The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, which I found at The Bookshelf Cafe in Guelph this summer. I’m reading slowly to prolong the pleasure of being in its world – so far I’ve encountered a monster, a glacial lake, a young woman named Willie Sunshine, an intrepid explorer love-interest, an archaelogical dig in Alaska, and the Running Buds (Big Tom, Little Thom, Johann, Sol, Doug, Frankie) who say this:

“We run; we like to run; we have run together for twenty-nine years now; we will run until our lungs revolt and bleed. Until we pass from middle age into old age, as we once passed from youth into middle age. Running. In the winter, we run, through the soft snow, slipping over the ice. In the Templeton summer, soft as chamois, glowing from within, we run. We run in the morning, when the beauty of our town gives us pause….”

All this before chapter 7, called Remarkable Prettybones.

As much as I want to stay in the world of The Monsters of Templeton, I keep trying to escape the world of Blasted, Sarah Kane‘s first full-length play which opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995. To look at the ugly things we do to each other, magnified, is uncomfortable. A harsh world view from a writer of such integrity and softness. It’s difficult to read, how much harder to watch?

Today was one of those days, when what you’ve accomplished pales before what you haven’t yet achieved: all that time – what have you done with it?. And your bank informs you that you’ve gone over your overdraft limit again. And the worry grows to the size of a large, uncooked dumpling, and lodges in your gut, preventing you from finishing Act III which should have been finished 3 months ago and it’s only the second draft so what’s your problem?
Then it’s helpful to go for a walk. On the way back, you see that homeless man – the one who dresses in black winter clothes all year round and seems pretty cheerful considering his poor health – sitting on the steps outside the lido cafe, taking the late sun. And you think ‘how fortunate I am’. And you remember the expression on the face of a woman in a fresco recovered from Herculaneum – as though something had just occurred to her.

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