Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writers as Lady G, readers as Peeping Tom

There are many ways to read the story of Tom and Lady G, and I was more interested in wandering around the possibilities than in imposing a reading on the tale. One way of reading it was as a metaphor for reading and writing.

Lady G’s ride seemed a good paradigm for what happens when you write what appears to be autobiography, using the lyric /I/. In a sense you’re going to go naked through the market place, soliciting an audience by revealing self.

There are numerous writers who find nothing wrong in exposing themselves in public. But for me Lady G provides the role model; appear to reveal everything, convince the readers they are getting an insight into something personal and private, but remain covered, build layers, disguise, lie. I am not the /I/ that speaks as Lady G. No one confuses me with a dead 11th century Earl. Why then would you expect me to be the /I/ who is growing up after the second world war in part two?

Because you did, says the voice. But I swore no oath to tell "the truth". Only to be truthful to what I knew and understood. And in fiction the truth's an irrelevance if the story's good.

Exploit the voyeur in the reader.

Like all writing it’s a delicate balancing act: too much revelation is both embarrassing for the reader and likely to come back to bite the writer. Too little, and the impression of autobiography disappears.

All writers, or at least those who seek publication, are at heart exhibitionists. Which raises some interesting questions about the process. If I were sitting on the train going up to Brisbane(I’d be lucky to get a seat) and someone started asking me about my life, I’d probably feel deeply uncomfortable and shut the conversation down. But the same stranger could fork out his dollars and read the things I wouldn’t tell him?

Barthes famously asks “What matters who is writing?” Who are you writing to, might be a more interesting question

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