Friday, March 13, 2009


Pure Fiction

It may sound contradictory, but I find such truth in fiction. In noting last week’s passing of one of America’s most truthful dramatists, Horton Foote, NY Times columnist Frank Rich compared his work to that of Faulkner “in its ability to make his own corner of America stand for the whole.” So true. Mr. Foote called out characters from the cloud of witnesses that populated his life, shone a golden light on them and rendered them wholly recognizable to human beings everywhere.

That is the enormous challenge as well as the invaluable gift of fiction, to illuminate the human condition in such a way as to give the reader a glimpse into his or her own soul. When successful, such fiction can plant the seed of wisdom, it can provide a visceral recognition of oneself in the feelings and experiences of others, a holy realization that we are all the same, we are all valuable, we are all human.

One can read reams about the Gilded Age in history books, but the words of Edith Wharton can take one’s hand and lead the way right inside it. Read The Age Of Innocence or The House of Mirth and see what I mean. Or dig beneath the surface of Flannery O’Connor’s outrageous stories to find the grace cleverly hidden within. Feast at the banquet of glorious words concocted by Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway; words that resonate in the deepest parts of the soul, providing vital nourishment to those who did not even realize they were hungry. Or perhaps, try an amazingly lucid book I’ve just recently finished, Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. Creative in its very form, it is a series of stories that consider the quiet existence of a few people in a coastal Maine village as the prickly character of Olive moves through their individual lives, sometimes directly, often on the periphery. I found it both compassionate and wise, a remarkable two way mirror allowing insight into the lives of others and into myself as well.

By the way, the late Horton Foote also penned the screenplay for Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And really, I have always felt that pretty much everything worth knowing can be found between the covers of that wondrous book.

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

24 comments:

  1. I agree heartily that in fiction the truth can be told, like with "sugar the medicine goes down" a little bit easier (Mary Poppins). Also, the image that you chose was from Renoir, right? One of my favorite impressionistic painters:)

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  2. Oh Pamela....what a wonderful post!
    I love the painting....and one of my favorite topics as you know is
    TKAM, both the book and movie! I watch THe House of Mirth movie day before yesterday!

    " The truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is really the truth dressed up"
    Carol Murdock 2009

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  3. There are some names here Pamela, that are unfamiliar to me, and one of the joys of blogging is to discover the many gems others generously pass on."You may like this too" opens such wonderful doors of undiscovered delights and introduces happy possibilities. You've given me leads for a search that I am sure will be fun - thank-you, and happy weekend to you and Edward.He looks delightful modelling your hat in a few posts back.

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  4. Amen. To Kill A Mockingbird is such a masterpiece. It really is a perfect book. Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorites too.

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  5. Excellent post - I so agree with you.
    I'm being dragged away from writing at greater length to do something utterly mundane (make a shopping list!) but I'd much rather stay and talk about books!

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  6. Well, you have named several books on my "To Read" and "To Re-Read" list. And I also do believe that To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the best books in the English language. Great post.
    ...and Edward, below, looks simply smashing in that hat! It is a nice accessory to his pink tongue.

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  7. The painting is beautiful and goes hand in hand with the perfect writing! I love Ralph Waldo Emerson! Have a golden weekend!! xoxo

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  8. I always love coming back to your blog and spending time reading! You are such a wonderful storyteller and always find the perfect photos to include! Love your blog!

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  9. My all time favorite movie. I wish I knew as much about literature as you do. I slept through school - it's wasted on the young!

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  10. I have always felt that you can learn more from a lovingly told and well researched story than you can from the dry sawdust of history books. Michner has done that with so many of his books. Laura Ingles Wilder and her Little House books. There is a large library at Linderhof and we gain knowledge from what is between the covers.

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  11. Hello P&E,

    Although I always read a book for enjoyment rather than to dissect and find the inner meaning, I do believe that fiction can allow us to understand and appreciate life more readily than baldly-stated facts.

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  12. you've touched on the thing i like best in fiction and that is getting a peek into a person's soul! my favorite books have quirky characters and the author does a fantastic job of letting us get to see that person in all his/her flaws.

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  13. I do believe that fiction is based on truth, don't you? Horton Foote's contributions were great and he will be missed.

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  14. The posts I had missed kept me happily spellbound just now. Edward looks so charming in your hat. I am glad you have taken up knitting, it is a fun and useful activity and so satisfying to create a a garment or warm woolly socks. Just wait 'till you are knitting with 10 needles and 4-6 balls of wool as you knit the mitten and lining at the same time and both have different patterns!
    Pamela, I so enjoy your writing and your choice of illustrative pictures.

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  15. A fellow book lover--how marvelous! Thanks for dropping in!

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  16. I couldn't agree with you more.
    With three children, I feel like I have such little time to read anymore. Every time I try to read before going to bed, I find myself falling asleep before the end of the first page.
    When I was younger, I loved losing myself in the stories told by Edith Wharton and Jane Austin. I really have to make reading more of a priority.

    xo
    Brooke

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  17. Foote certainly had the magic touch. He also wrote the screenplay for Tender Mercies.

    word verification:
    'bulle'

    Yep, that's appropriate for me. :)

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  18. I love this post and so agree with its sentiments. The picture has got the most heavenly blue in the background - a colour I associate with truth, Pamela. I always think that Edward, in his photographs, looks such a knowing dog. Do you know the Chinese phrase to fan shen? Roughly it means to really know yourself - I think Edward has reached that point.

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  19. Hello! What a sweet and enchanting blog! How did you find me? I am glad you did because I adore your site! I will put you on my list. Edward is a hoot! You are so right about fiction; it can teach us so much truth. I LOVE ART AND WRITING! Bless you and do come back for the second act of my play this weekend. I will join your following! Anita

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  20. I am just checking out your blog again; it is so beautiful. Edward is funny! What a great companion for you! The art you have chosen on your site is relaxing, peaceful and makes me want to create. Thanks again for visiting! Anita

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  21. Wonderful insight into the power of fiction...yes, it does do all that you say it does.

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  22. Wonderful post! Flannery O'Conner is one of my favorite authors!

    These days I feel like current events are more fanciful, bizarre, and preposterous than a fiction writer could ever dream of!

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  23. I guess fiction is the honey of reality. So many bees and even more flowers from which to distill the essence of our lives. I'm a fan of Flannery's!

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  24. One of the great gifts of literature is that open our eyes and opens our world...and if we are are willing, it opens our hearts. Thank you for your words. I have this image of readers around the world so captivated by words they have to utter them aloud providing a loving mantra.

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one!