Monthly Archives: October 2014

What paintings can do for us

I love painting because in its immutable stillness it seems to exist outside time in a way no other art can. The longer I live the more I would like to put the world in suspension and grip the present before it’s eaten by the next second and becomes the past. A painting creates an illusion of an eternal present, a place where my eyes can rest as if the clock has magically stopped ticking.

Siri Hustvedt,  The Mysteries of the Rectangle

Comments Off on What paintings can do for us

Filed under Uncategorized

What novels teach us

If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest. Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth

 

 

 

Comments Off on What novels teach us

Filed under story

Found Photo

book title

 

Found photo made into a book cover without an author. Photo found  amongst the boxes of photos in The Junk Company,

Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

Comments Off on Found Photo

Filed under Uncategorized

The solitude of writing

My father always preached  from notes, and I wrote my sermons out word for word. There are boxes of them in the attic, a few recent years of them in stacks in the closet. I’ve never gone back to them to see if they were worth anything, if I actually said anything. Pretty nearly my whole life’s work is in those boxes, which is an amazing thing to reflect on. I could look through them, maybe find a few I would want you to have. I’m a little afraid of them. I believe I may have worked over them as I did just to keep myself occupied. If someone came to the house and found me writing, generally he or she would go away, unless it was something pretty important. I don’t know why solitude would be  a balm for loneliness, but that is how it always was for me in those days, and people respected me for all those hours I was up here working away in the study, and for the books that used to come in the mail for me— not so many, really, but more than  I could afford. That’s where some of the money went that I could have put aside.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Comments Off on The solitude of writing

Filed under the writing process

The truth of stories

JMCoetzee

“The stories we tell about ourselves may not be true, but they are all we have.”

I am interested in our relations with these stories we tell about ourselves, stories that may or may not be true. Let me select three cases.

(a) I have a story about myself which I sincerely believe to be true, in fact which I believe to be the story of me, but which some ideal, omniscient, God-like observer who is entirely independent of me and to whose mind I have no access knows not to be true, or at least not to be the whole truth.

(b) I have a story I tell about myself, one in which I wholeheartedly believe but which certain well-placed observers (my parents, my spouse, my children) know to be flawed, probably self-serving, perhaps even to a degree delusional. (This is a not uncommon state of affairs.)

(c) I have a story about myself in the way that we all have stories about ourselves: I concede that it may not be true by the standards of (a) or even (b); nevertheless, it is “mine”, it is all I have, and therefore I give it my allegiance. “It’s all I have, it’s the best I can do.”

The Monthly October 2014

Extract from The Good Story: Exchanges on truth, fiction and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, by JM Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz, to be published by Harvill Secker in May 2015. Copyright © JM Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz 2014

Comments Off on The truth of stories

Filed under memories, story, the writing process