Thursday, January 17, 2013

The fictional world

With all the schadenfreude I can muster, I enjoy the uncovering of hoaxes and frauds. And the last week has been an exhausting carnival of revelations. A famed college football player's heartwarming story of a girlfriend who died; a prize winning poet; a cycling champion; and baseball Hall of Fame voters rejected the stars of the late 90s and early 00s. It's getting difficult to keep up, but Twitter and Gawker and the like are always there to spread the latest.

Also via the internet come these words of advice on writing from novelist W.G. Sebald:

You should ask other people for information, and steal ruthlessly from what they provide. None of the things you make up will be as hair-raising as the things people tell you.

It's both reassuring and not. You'll never run out of ideas, but those ideas will be rooted in the depressing plenitude of human weakness.

Imagine a story, then, about a protagonist who invents a lover, or mentor, or literary agent, or other close partner or adviser. Someone who is close to them, who provides invaluable support, and who is, for plausible reasons, not available in person -- not now and, as it turns out, not ever. Call the imaginary person Aubrey Daniels, just to use a gender-neutral first name, and name the story "The Fiction of Aubrey Daniels," which makes ironic use of the humble word of. The story is more about the weaving of the fiction, and the uses to which the protagonist puts the fictional Aubrey, though of course the story has to include the uncovering of the hoax and the reaction of all the people who were fooled by it.

(To be fooled is to be made into a fool, an interesting grammatical construction I don't know the name of and can't think of another example of, aside from the newish term to punk someone, which means almost the same thing. Perhaps this usage is related to the joke "Call me a cab." "All right -- you're a cab." I hope a rhetorician can clear this up for me.)

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