narrative empire

An event that didn’t happen when he said it did; another that did not happen, though was the kind of event that did. Should either be included according to the usual definitions of ‘authenticity’ or ‘integrity’? I would argue that the question is unimportant. To clarify: it may be helpful, if a truism, to point out that the journey happened . . . but the book didn’t . . . a book ‘happens’ to its reader; it doesn’t ‘happen’ at all until somebody does read it. Why linger on these distinctions? Because there is an observation about writing . . . that is not routinely made: namely, that because the book can’t happen to the writer . . . as a curious consolation, in return for not having the experience of the book . . . the writer is allowed freedom, an aesthetic territory that is his or hers alone. A territory where he or she is free to choose; order; adapt; omit; invert; shuffle; reverse; borrow; modify; intensify; extend; poeticise; theatricalise; normalise; sharpen; blunt; extend; telescope; magnify; minimise; steal; invent the experience he or she did not have. It is a territory that contains all the writer’s selfishness, all his or her sovereign, organising, superhuman impulses, and all the writer’s generosity; all his or her desire to please, provide meaning, present the most transforming experience. It is the writer’s narrative empire.

from : Semi-Invisible Man – the life of Norman Lewis, by Julian Evans; p. 326

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