the stories we tell

I’ve been reading Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey, which in light of recent events, feels all too apt. “A mortal folly comes over the world,” reads the epigraph from Antonin Artaud. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

One passage in particular stood out, especially when read alongside James Wood’s How Fiction Works. As Smith examines the personal library of Fernando Pessoa and reflects on his various heteronyms and pseudonyms:

The writer develops independent characters who live their own life and write under their own names…

While intended to refer directly to Pessoa, this excerpt pokes at a question I’ve been asking lately: where does the author stop and the character begin?

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and most of Kerouac’s writing blur this line. The author and narrator become almost indistinguishable. As what point does the story we tell in our own voice take on a life of its own? When do we cease to be ourselves telling a story and instead become the story itself?

One thought on “the stories we tell

  1. I’m forever grateful to have been assigned “The Things They Carried” in English class senior year, taught by a kickass Vietnam vet who also knew the author. “How to tell a true war story” impressed upon me that sometimes it takes fiction to convey real truths.

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