“Representations”

I no longer “participate” in Twitter’s so-called #writingcommunity. And you probably already know why. (If you don’t, you may click here for an explanation.) But I do scroll it occasionally to see what gems I may be missing.

For example, here’s something else, err, I did not know:

[Screen capture of Twitter.]

I make this point time and again because I consider it central to understanding “the novel” as a form of literature. Every novel is merely a snapshot of a period(s) in the lives of a few. It is NOT about “society” because it is IMPOSSIBLE to represent “society” in a book about a few characters:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, Copyright, 2014. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

Thus efforts we see regularly to condemn “this novel” or “that novel” because it is somehow “unrepresentative” fail to take into account that NO fiction book ever written is fully “representative” of anything other than those characters and those happenings within those “300” or so pages.

Invoking racist white supremacist Nazi propaganda terms is nothing to be flippant about. So is it too much to expect at least a couple of examples of “all” of those “arian”Aryan” characters that tweeter claims are unrepresentatively now overrunning new U.S. literature? Instead, silence: we are left sitting here reading that tweet provided with no clue what characters and writers she is especially peeved over and thus what prompted her “soapbox” moment. (It is a “bolt from the blue” tweet. Others up to a couple of days before and since – as of today – allude to nothing similar and so reveal nothing more.)

I find that charge also hard to accept without further explanation given most novels by Americans that I see written lately appear to revolve around the likes of non-human fairies or trolls. Which makes sense given writing about people is now often to find oneself dropped into the middle of a minefield. For example, have we not just witnessed an American author who wrote a tale seen primarily through the eyes of a Mexican woman get raked over the social media coals for daring to do so despite even Oprah Winfrey herself having endorsed the novel?

Considering all of that led me to recall how I have introduced some of my own major characters in my “modern” (1990s) novels:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]
[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]
[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]
[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]
[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]
[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

“Ideals” of anything they are not. They are all based on individuals I have known in my life. Borrowing, I suppose, from (if I may even dare to venture anywhere near comparing myself ever so slightly to them) Fitzgerald, and from Hemingway, and from Paton, and from various other authors, I FICTIONALIZED those real people.

I may not personally be a fan of reading “this” story or “that” one. But ALL writers have THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT to churn out their tales as they see fit. Writing is – as I have said before – entirely personal; it is NOT a “group” activity.

[My writing desk, Potton, England, February 21, 2020. Photo by me.]

By the way, my late grandfather – a generous, loving man – born in the U.S. of Italian immigrants, so hardly an “arian,” had blue eyes:

[My grandfather, who was a baseball player, in a 1935 New York City newspaper cartoon. Photo by me.]

Whatever the census-claimed percentages of something amidst the U.S. population is NEVER the point. On my pages he – and anyone else – is simply an individual; I will note in my tales if I want to that he (who actually lived) had blue eyes. It is not up to that tweeter, or to anyone else, to “suggest” what “representations” “should” appear in anyone’s novel(s); they should just write their own damn books.

[Excerpt from Tomorrow The Grace, Copyright, 2019. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

An important habit we must all master if we write is also to learn when to tell some people to go jump in a (figurative) lake.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂

5 thoughts on ““Representations”

  1. Yeah, I agree. She needs to be more specific and honestly, it’s fiction. I think we should be able to write our characters anyway we want to write them. Great post, RJ!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that sort of tweeting aggravating. I believe if you want to say something, say it. Don’t beat around the bush like that – especially given it is an incredibly serious statement.

      Liked by 1 person

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