Apologia FFF


Friday Fast Fiction

                   Late last night, I opened Alistair Macleod’s book The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and I re-read the first story. I was soon dabbing my eyes with a tissue and blowing my nose.
This morning, I want to destroy everything I have written. I know I don’t possess the verbal and emotional genius of the great writers and I sense that I will never be able to write like them. Graduate school taught me to be passive, not active, and to write impersonally, choking every emotion when I write. Academia also taught me how to kiss and how to run away with my thirty silver pence. “Never challenge the status quo,” my professors told me. “Learn the rules and disobey them at your peril.”
But here, in this private space where I create and re-create, there are no rules. The enemy is not clear any more and the fight is not one of black against white. It is rather a choice between diminishing shades of grey, and all cats are grey in the gathering dark that storms against my closing mind. Should I destroy all my writing? I won’t be the first to do so; nor would I be the last. And I won’t be the first or the last to destroy myself either. Intellectual, academic, and creative suicide: as total as the suicide of the flesh.
I carry on my back the names of those who have gone on before me as if they were a pile of heavy stones packed into a rucksack that I carry up a steep hill, day after day, only to find myself, next morning, starting at the bottom once again. But this is not the point: the point is that if I cannot write like the great writers, how can I write?
I think of Mikhail Bakhtin and his cronotopos, man’s dialog with his time and his place. I have no roots, no memories, and that is where my stories must start: in the loss of self, the loss of place, the loss of everything. I was uprooted at an early age, soon lost my foundations, was sent into exile, and only survival mattered.
I look at the first page of one of my manuscripts. My writing manifesto is clear before me: “And this is how I remember my childhood,” I read. “Flashes of fragmented memory frozen like those black and white publicity photos I saw as a child in the local cinema. If I hold the scene long enough in my mind, it flourishes and the figures speak and come back to life.”
I am aware of the words of T. S. Eliot that “every attempt / is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure / because one has only learned to get the better of words / for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which / one is no longer disposed to say it” (East Coker).
Are my stories an exercise in creativity or are they a remembrance of things past? How accurate is memory? Do we recall things just as they happened? Or do we weave new fancies? In other words, are my inner photographs real photographs or have they already been tinted and tainted by the heavy hand of creativity and falseness?
The truth is that I can no longer tell fact from fiction. Perhaps it was all a dream, a nightmare, rather, something that I just imagined. And perhaps every word of it is true.
I no longer know.

12 thoughts on “Apologia FFF

  1. St Thomas Aquinas at the end of his life regarded everything he written as a heap of straw. Kafka asked Brod to make a bonfire out of his unfinished novels. Marquis de Sade last will and testament is a masterpiece of attempted self effacement. Personally that desire for silence and invisibility which I have felt many times is a desire not to add to that already vast sum of inanity and triviality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s Fast Fiction Friday and that’s my imitation Apologia Pro Vita Mea. I have NO intention whatsoever in real life of (a) destroying my works or (b) destroying myself or (c) abandoning my family and my friends, friends new and old! Anyway, Bakhtin rules and my chronotopos is important, simply because it is my time and my place, however small, however humble, and however neglected by the unmentionables. Thanks for your encouragement, Tanya. Best wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just so you have a state of my thinking today: Dermott Hayes clued me in last week to the Dakota pipeline protests and court cases (and appalling treatment of Native Americans, once again). I normally don’t publish on Fridays, but I put up a piece today as the situation has really heated up and a Federal Court decision is going to be handed down by the end of the day. Is it Friday?…Lol

        My brain is in overdrive on this one. I am seriously distracted…Lol

        Best wishes also, Roger!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Roger. I shall let your grief stand for a while, resting among friends, a grief provoked by a master writer and shared by others, as you have already mentioned. Meanwhile, i send a hug from Ottawa, and the realization that my decision about your work, that i already have, is that i will keep it, keep it, keep it, while looking for more of your particular conversation with your time and place. Take care. @

    Liked by 1 person

    • My time, my place, and my friends … including you, allison, one of the longest standing … and one of the best … I miss our regular conversations … glad you like the story, though … Apologia pro Vita Mea as the medievalists would have it. I guess I’m still medieval at heart … or should that be Golden Age …


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