Writing and consequences

22 October 2009 at 02:10 Leave a comment

Lionel Shriver:

I knew I was venturing into perilous territory. But I convinced myself that by changing the careers and numerous other biographical details of the characters, as well as by conceiving a whole plot that bore no resemblance whatsoever to real events, I had sufficiently fictionalised the source principals in my drama… So I figured I’d done my fiction-writing bit, my moral duty… Maybe, I posited, I’d face a little aggro on publication…

When the novel came out, my parents were incandescent. I’d worried that they might take a few lines or the odd segment of dialogue personally; instead, they took everything personally, and in the worst way – including the passages meant to be complimentary. My younger brother, long my closest ally in our clan of five, stopped speaking to me for two years, although – more’s the pity – that didn’t stop him from firing off a series of outraged letters, just as my parents did…

My older brother, whose depiction as the family’s black sheep was the least fictionalised of the lot, and who had plenty of reason to feel affronted? Loved the book.

I’ve been letting this piece sink in for several days.  I don’t personally use family members as models for my characters – but I have wondered if they won’t see themselves in them anyway.

So even cognisant of the consequences, I’d write that book again. That may make me a real writer. It doesn’t make me a nice person.

That’s the crux of it, for the writer.  Did this process do what I needed it to do.  I guess I don’t agree with her conclusion that she “sold her family for a novel”, but clearly what she didn’t anticipate was that:

Accustomed to trying to win the approval of my parents, I underappreciated how much parents yearn for the approval of their children, too.

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Entry filed under: writing.

Personal note… Anomaly

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 3 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 4 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 4 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 4 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 4 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.

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