Saturday, June 15, 2013

A word, make that several paragraphs, of explanation

A little flurry of concern flared up in the comments section yesterday over whether my story (or essay or whatever it is) Silver (q.v.) was autobiographical.

I suppose I started it myself, because after Yorkshire Pudding said, “How cruel of your father to get rid of Silver out of spite when you loved that horse so much and how wonderful you remember your mother’s laughter so vividly,” a sort of twinkle came into my eye and I replied, “[D]o you always assume that my writing is autobiographical? This piece is, of course, except for names that have been changed, but still I wonder, do you always assume it?” which caused no little consternation over at Hilltophomesteader’s house. She wrote, “I assumed you were talking about your own childhood. You will tell us if you’re making something up...won’t you?”

Let me put all fears to rest. Silver was autobiographical, but I did change some people’s names. Furthermore, I also hasten to assure Lord Pudding that I am real, Ellie is real, Jethro was real, and Canton, Georgia -- God help us all -- is real.

I do like what Thomas Wolfe said at the beginning of Look Homeward, Angel (which you can read in full online over at Project Gutenberg Australia):


This is a first book, and in it the author has written of experience which is now far and lost, but which was once part of the fabric of his life. If any reader, therefore, should say that the book is “autobiographical” the writer has no answer for him: it seems to him that all serious work in fiction is autobiographical--that, for instance, a more autobiographical work than “Gulliver’s Travels”cannot easily be imagined.

This note, however, is addressed principally to those persons whom the writer may have known in the period covered by these pages. To these persons, he would say what he believes they understand already: that this book was written in innocence and nakedness of spirit, and that the writer’s main concern was to give fulness, life, and intensity to the actions and people in the book he was creating. Now that it is to be published, he would insist that this book is a fiction, and that he meditated no man’s portrait here.

But we are the sum of all the moments of our lives--all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape or conceal it. If the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has only used what all men must, what none can keep from using. Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood, fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose. Dr. Johnson remarked that a man would turn over half a library to make a single book: in the same way, a novelist may turn over half the people in a town to make a single figure in his novel. This is not the whole method but the writer believes it illustrates the whole method in a book that is written from a middle distance and is without rancour or bitter intention.

(end of excerpt from Look Homeward, Angel)

I trust that all hearts and minds are now clear and that we can continue as if nothing had happened.


  1. I do believe that Ellie is real. Probably Jethro is real, Yorkshire Pud. is all too real, you may be real, but I doubt very much if Canton, Georgia is real. All those slow talking southern accents cannot possibly be real.....

  2. Wayal, Miz Heeyeltophomestayader, mayam, Ah hate tuh hafta disagree with such a sweet lady but layat me jes tayal yew sump'm: Cayanton, Jawja, is one uh the mos' reeyel tayowns in the whole wad woruld. An' futha mo-ah, Ah thank evva buddy should tawk theeyus waay.

  3. P.S. - But ain't nunna us ennythang at all like that Honey Boo-Boo. She gives awla us a bayad name.

  4. High - ho Silver! Now Tonto me understand Kemo Sabe Plague. White man he talk with forked tongue.

  5. Having just read your explanation and the preceding essay or whatever you so wish to call it, I think I probably understand. I would also say that I believe you are real.

    As for me, I am just a visitor to this dimension from an alternate universe. Or something like that.

    A good Sunday or whatever it is, to you :)

  6. My gratitude, or whatever it is, goes out to you, Gary (klahanie), in whatever dimension or universe you happen to be at the moment. Come back often. Your visits are appreciated and looked forward to.