Unreal Nature

November 1, 2014

I Am Not the Only One

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… To write, then, is to say, whether pleading or in accusation, I am not the only one.

This is from Journal of the Fictive Life by Howard Nemerov (1965):

… Who are you? Well, I was born in 19__ in __________ City. I attended ____________ School and __________ College, receiving my degree in 19__, During the War I served in the __________ Army. I married and had __ children. Have worked for the following firms __________ , _________ , _________. Yes, but who are you? _________ ?

Aristotle said that character is revealed only in action. He is perfectly correct, I guess, if by character we stress the moral nature, which perhaps only Christianity pretends to judge in independence of actions. But the novelist as a rule deals with more quotidian people than Aristotle’s dramatists did, and it is the definition of character for such people that they do not enact 1 percent of what is in them; if they enacted, say, 2 percent, they would be bankrupt, in jail, or dead. Therefore the novelist must to some extent deal with dreams, but to what extent does he deal with dreams as though they were realities? as though people did act them out?

This has become a most interesting theme very recently, mostly I think because of the very large and unsophisticated audience it is possible for the novelist to have; people whose notion of ‘realism,’ derived from the movies, includes a large symphony orchestra playing the dramatis personae about their business.


… all through these so intimate, so personal, observations runs the thought that I shall one day publish them, in a gesture of confessional defiance or proud self-contempt. For I am trying to tell the truth, and it is a trouble to me.

To write, then, is to say, whether pleading or in accusation, I am not the only one. You others, you too … and wait to hear the silence echoing through the world.

My most recent previous post from Nemerov’s book is here.




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