Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blurring the Boundaries

The Christchurch Writers Festival always follows on from the Melbourne Writers Festival. When you're trying to attract writers from the northern hemisphere on a limited budget, it always helps to be able to share the travel costs.

Mark Sarvas who blogs at The Elegant Variation was at both. I followed some of the links in his post about the Melbourne festival, and found this quote:

Lloyd Jones.. gave a delightful reading from Mister Pip and was very adamant that the lines between fiction and truth, history and literature, are and should be blurred

Jones's views are highlighted by an interesting article on a controversy that erupted fifteen years ago with the publication of his travel book/novel/whatever Biografi, which is in the New Zealand Listener this week.
A preview of the article appears here - the full text will be available online on September 27. In the meantime here is a blurb for the book. It sounds intriguing - another to add to my reading list.

Of course it's not just fiction that is fictional. If you had to write your autobiography, how much of it would be true? When one of a married couple tells a story, the other one will inevitably jump in and say "that's not what happened". Joe Bennett's column in the Christchurch Press this morning explains why:
The past is a foreign country, writes LP Hartley. They do things differently there. It isn't. They don't. We've just rewritten it in our heads.

Joe Bennett appeared at the Writers' Festival on the travel writing panel, but he would have made an interesting addition to the panel on memoir. I enjoyed this discussion, not least because the writers on the panel didn't seem to be protecting their territory the way some writers do. It's amazing how often I read of writers suggesting that there are too many people writing, too many people blogging, too many bad poems and bad short stories and bad novels out there. "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly". There are runners who will run a marathon finishing in the Olympic Stadium with ten thousand onlookers cheering them on. There are others who will jog alone for the health benefits, or with a small group of friends for the exercise and the company. Writing should be the same.

I was hearted to find that the panel seemed to agree. As Dame Fiona Kidman said, "Memoir doesn't have to be published work, it doesn't have to be in covers, it is your story and it's unique. It will be of value to someone somewhere."

1 comment:

Kay Cooke said...

This is always an interesting point about what is true in autobiogrgaphy and what isn't. I think though that I would sooner write my own biography than someone else write it! I enjoy biographies but I don't know that the subjects would particularly agree with a lot that is written about their lives -unless the bio is authorised and the subjects have huge input, of course.
Fascinating stuff ... another fantastic report. You should be a journalist!