Dog Babies 2.

Last night I could not sleep for worrying what I might say to Jim from The Truth About Lies, given his lengthy and generous comment on my recent post, ‘Dog Babies’.

Jim has not said that I have cheated, rather I have created false expectations in this post. False expectations, because for the last several weeks I have written about my broken leg and then one day I decide to write a piece that is ‘semi-fictional’, and people cannot detect as much. They take it for gospel truth and when I go to pains to tell them they have it wrong, that they must not take it too seriously, then I am challenged.

What is it with the written word?

I do not want the facts alone to be judged. It is the writing I care about. I hope people judge my writing as a story, more than that they judge me, or the characters in my story. Nor do I want people to commiserate with me. I had rather they commiserate with my character who often times is me, but also represents an aspect of me, even with a broken leg.

But when readers read my narrator as pure me, how then can I respond, other than to say thankyou for their kind thoughts, when they fret for me?

I would prefer that readers view my writing as thoughts about ideas and events and writing, as well as about characters, and not so much about me as a person, more about me as a narrator. This seems reasonable given that we all know that the Internet represents us in certain ways, and that we are not always who we seem. We have multiple aspects to our identities.

I fear for the judgements about ‘my friend’, in this piece. My friend’s words are accurate in so far as my memory allows, but the issue is not one of my friend, it is my narrator self who should be judged and is that not something to ponder on?

My arguments seem thin. They have merit I hope, but even so, should I warn people before they read? – This you are about to take in is ‘autobiographical fiction’.

Why must we always warn people about the nature of what it is they are about to read? Are there not clues enough in the writing? If someone reads a piece of fiction and believes it to be true then so be it. Likewise, if someone reads a piece of nonfiction and believes it to be untrue, so what?

I am not talking newspaper reports here. And even then, if someone employs reportage-type techniques in their writing and weaves in a thread of fiction, can that not stand as well?

Cannot the writing be judged for itself? A piece of writing that must have some truth as in authenticity to be believed and to be considered plausible, but need not be ‘true’ as a statement of fact. And if it is not true as a statement of fact, is it necessary for people to feel affronted.

Or is it, as one of my supervisors has suggested recently: some readers might feel they have squandered their empathy on a narrator who no longer deserves it because she is faithless? She has not told the truth.

I describe myself as an autobiographer largely because I want people to recognise that in telling my story, I use details from my life, but at the same time I am a writer who actively constructs the story.

We all do this to some extent when we tell our stories. The story may in essence be ‘truthful’, but simultaneously the events and people described in it are selective.

The artistry lies in the details that we elect to include and those we omit. If we look from one perspective, we see one aspect of the event. From another it looks completely different.

When I write from my child self, my adult perspective jars, and vice versa, but both perspectives exist and many more besides. Similarly, if I write when I am feeling despondent, my writing takes on a different quality than were I to write at the height of great joy.

Most likely, if I were ebullient, I would not have the urge to write. My negative emotions most often cause me to want to write as a means of overcoming them.

And given that there are many times when I feel despondent, or angry, or jealous, or frustrated or sad, the writing comes more easily much of the time, but at the same time it reflects particular mind states that do not show the whole or the ‘truth’ of me, the person – as if any such ‘truth’ or whole person exists. They show far more about the truth of my narrative self.

So when people address their comments to me the person, as in the instance of ‘Dog Babies’, I feel I must relieve them in some way.

I do not want them to think of me, Elisabeth, in her unhappy state of life with an unhappy dog. I want them to float around in their minds, to resonate with or against the narrator, Elisabeth, and her unhappy dog.

We need to suspend judgement when we read, and with fiction it comes more easily it would seem than with non-fiction. I am sensitive to the notion of forewarning my readers that this then is a piece of ‘partial fiction’, which in itself is a construction.

I could say that everything I write is a construction. The amount of fictionalising might differ but I do not offer reportage, except perhaps in my comments and even then in my comments I do not speak the ‘absolute truth’.

I’ve written many an essay on the topics of truth in nonfiction and I am weary with it. I do not want the truth seekers to get me wrong, but let’s face it, we all of us construct scenarios in our writing, in our art, in our photography, in our poetry that reflect aspects of our lives, our personalities, our many selves, but these are aspects only.

We do not present the ‘truth’. There is no such thing, only a sense that masquerades as ‘truth’ and can make us feel on safer ground, but the ‘truth’ is we do not know this for fact. Maybe truthfulness is a better notion, but even then we enter shaky ground.

In the end, I opt for emotional truth. That to me is the essence.

Enough, enough, I say. I have written out my angst.

66 thoughts on “Dog Babies 2.”

  1. Oh elisabeth It is not always easy to be a writer but it also not always easy to be a reader. I just always like to make sense of everything. In your stories you have been the main character and therefore I try to understand things from the main characters perspective, if it's true or untrue
    that doesn't matter te me. I love your writing and thats what counts for me.

  2. I often think of my blog as being truthful but not true. As such I often encounter the reaction that you are writing about. I find that there are benefits are burdens from using the technique of the unreliable narrator, but in the end everyone takes away something different which perhaps, in the long run, is best anyway.

  3. I read the previous story as you talking about your current dog and how he brings forth memories of an earlier pet, in earlier times, and how sometimes the two mesh in your mind because of similarities, bringing forth whole new feelings and laying down new memories, while still dealing with old memories.
    Does that make sense?
    I also think that if a reader misunderstands, then the problem lies with the reader, especially if that reader has been reading your posts for quite some time, so should "understand" you better by now.

  4. I agree with your sentiments about the lines between fiction and non-fiction completely.

    I think it's tricky, this writing in a blog. People sort of assume if we don't say otherwise, that it's "true". In some way, what we present to the blog world is a fiction, because it is only part of who we are, it is a performance of sorts. But all of life is this way, and we do not share everything inside us.

    I have seen a blog where she has it on her About info, that sometimes what she writes is a bit of creativeness.

  5. Dear Elizabeth,
    I am thinking about the post you wrote not long ago about blogging. How words and sentences have to be carefully formed, so they are not misunderstood.;)
    I have been misunderstood, in both posts and comments.;) It never went terribly wrong, but enough at times to cause me a bit of anguish.
    But eventually I realized that my blog is an outlet for me and my toughs and i need to stay true to who I am. After all, not everyone always gets me in real life, thus there will be some that will not get my writing either.;)
    And let me compliment you on your new look here and the lovely new profile picture/header.;)
    Have a lovely day,

  6. Ah, Truth, my old whipping boy. I’m sorry to give you a sleepless night but I did expect you to blog about this. I think the question deserves to be thrown open. The problem with the written word is that it requires interpretation which is why many people include smileys in their e-mails to make it easier for people to get the intended meaning. The problem is, as I said, one of expectation. People come to my blog and expect a book review on a Monday and a literary article on a Thursday but every now and then they get the very fictional ‘Aggie and Shuggie’. The thing about the ‘Aggie and Shugggies’ is that no one could take them for anything but fiction so I don’t feel any need to say, “Oh, by the way, today we’re having a fiction break,” because, to my mind, it’s obvious that the piece is fictional.

    What caused me a problem with ‘Dog Babies’ was that you had taken material that you been talking about in a factual context and chose to incorporate fictional elements without warning us. Do I have any right to expect to be told up front that your approach had changed? No. But then you have to accept the possibility that the work might be misinterpreted. Now, if you’d started talking about a fictional character, say ‘Betty’, with a broken leg and a dog in a pen I might have been confused but I wouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that what I was reading was factual. I think ‘factual’ is a better word here than ‘true’ because, as I’ve admitted, fiction can and does contain just as much truth as non-fictional writing.

    There has been much in the press of late talking about fictionalised memoirs and how people have felt cheated. I believe this is to do with emotional investment: we care more about what happens to real people (and real dogs) than made-up ones. Incorporating fictional elements into autobiographical works is perfectly acceptable as long as the readers know up front – as in the case of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs of which he said, "Most first novels are disguised autobiographies. This autobiography is a disguised novel." So I held back something of myself when I read it. This is why we can watch films where hundreds of people are killed and walk out of the cinema saying, “That was great,” because they weren’t real people. I was less cut up about the death of Candy’s dog in Of Mice than Men than I was affected (albeit on my mother’s behalf) by the tale of your corralled dog.

    I learned recently of a site called Truth @ 15 Frames per Second. The site says this about itself:

    “This site is about a long distance relationship. I (Sean) am in Berlin for 8 months editing an American film. My girlfriend Penny is at home in New York. We miss each other. We got webcams so we can talk while I’m gone and I decided to record our conversations and post them on this blog. Vlog. Whatever. She doesn’t know about it. Please don’t tell her. Seriously.”

    The documentary I saw about it revelled that it was a scam; the couple were simply acting the parts. Q: How does that differ from a film about a breakup? A: Because we care more in real people (and dogs). Life is interactive. I could do nothing to save Candy’s dog but there was always the possibility I could affect how you treated your dog.

  7. What struck me about Dog Babies was exactly what you said- The Writing. I didn't really care (or event think about) whether all the facts were "true." The writing was true.

  8. An interesting discussion. I think it depends on context: although you're right that we invariably construct the angle from which the reader views us, it's nevertheless true that most bloggers use this medium for personal notes in one form or another. We're accustomed to seeing fiction flagged as such, if it takes its place on a blog. So, I would suggest, let your words stand as fact or as fiction, but don't "change" the status after a piece has been read and absorbed… that would be my gut feeling on the matter.

  9. I have been thinking about your blog and your last "story" post ? and what strikes me is your statement

    "cannot writing be judged for itself"

    well if you have followed a blog you come in already with a certain mind set…

    I will be posting about this on my blog soon but as I am an artist and not a writer it will take awhile to get my thoughts down.
    My blog set up for big photos small about of text…

    I was going to ask about your leg but I now assume your broken leg is a metaphor ?
    I am confused but maybe that is a good thing as it shows what a strong writer you are. . . what is fiction what is reality or is there no dividing line.

    be well, cheers, parsnip

  10. I'm new in the circle…so have no expectations. But I do get to know my followers well and visa versa. They will check in with me and I with them…"is this truth?" if it's something of particular concern. If you don't want to build relationships with your readers, and therefore expectations, you could take the comments option off your blog. That way the relationship is removed, and the writing is all and judged solely on it's own merit with only your profile as frame of reference.

  11. I sometimes tell quasi-factual stories on my blog and other times out-and-out fiction. The stories that are quasi-fictional are ones where I've telescoped events or simplified the dialogue, but basically they're true. The stories that are out-and-out fiction usually have a high degree of comic exaggeration that hopefully nobody takes as gospel. Plus, much of my out-and out fiction takes place in the Looking-Glass Cafe, which clues at least my regular readers to take it with a grain of Morton's.

    I have to admit that I'm one of the readers who took your dog story to be the truth and nothing but. I even felt sad about the end of your friendship. I thought I was keen enough to spot fabrication, but I guess not.

    True or false or in-between, it was nevertheless a compelling read.

  12. How come Jim keeps you awake at night and I don't? I'm given the dunce's cap here.
    All my scribblings are personal. Read my latest poem: Hey Pentridge (or something) it's humiliating but it's true. I'm into my second day laughing about it. Fiction couldn't do that

  13. I do a lot of creative nonfiction, or literary nonfiction, and read a lot of it too. It doesn't bother me, since by now there's a long history of it.

    There are some interesting questions being talked about here. I don't really have any answers, other than to know that I don't worry about them too much.

    I think the bottom line is that people only complain when their expectations aren't being met. Or when they think they've been deceived. Literary history is full of such moments.

    But in the end, what survives is the writing.

  14. What has me reading your blog, Elisabeth, is the intensity of your mental life, introspection with a fierceness to it almost scary.

    If we were personal friends I might have different thoughts, but I experience you as a Writer. That's why I'm reading.

  15. It is hard to be a reader, Marja, sometimes harder to read than to write.

    At least when we write we have some control over what we say, but when we read the script is already laid out for us and all we can do is use our minds, intellects and imaginations in an effort to follow, at least for some of the way.

    i'm pleased that you enjoy reading my writing, Marja. I do not try deliberately to confuse people, but sometimes it happens.


  16. 'Truthful, but not true' seems a good way to describe it Laoch.

    I have it in my mind that you have a legal background. Here In Australia there is many a lawyer who has turned him/herself into a wonderful fiction writer.

    Perhaps the imaginary is preferable when one's life is dedicated to establishing the 'facts'.

    Thanks Laoch.

  17. Yours sounds like a terrific reading of my Dog Babies, post, River. I couldn't have put it better.

    The past and present come together to form new thoughts and rejig old ones, with nothing so much factual more fanciful but rooted in some sort of internal and external reality that is mine alone.

    Thanks, River

  18. It is tricky, Ruth and that's a good word for it, 'tricky'.

    Where do we stand in the blogosphere. It offers a minefield for misunderstandings , and yet there are so many other times when it feel replete with fresh understandings, serendipitous meetings and convergences that make it a joy to be human in this brave new technological world.

    Thanks, Ruth.

  19. I'm glad you like my new 'look', Zuzana.

    It is strange for me, too, the degree to which I can sometimes anguish over misunderstandings as they arise.

    It is so much harder to communicate without the non-verbal cues we normally rely on. But even then in the 'real' world we still get things wrong. It's human nature.

    The best we can do – as you do in abundance – is store up our good will to help settle our own and other people's nerves when necessary.

    Thanks, Zuzana.

  20. I agree, Jim, the topic, how we present our work -fact and/or fiction – needs discussing.

    I had even thought to include your comment on my Dog Babies post on Dog Babies 2, but it would have made it even longer than it already is and I figured people can read your comment anyhow where it stands.

    You have so many valid points. The difference between our response to what we believe is real and what we imagine is not, strikes me to be at the heart of the conflict.

    It seems for some it matters very much, that they come pre-informed. For others, it seems it matters not. I'm probably more in the latter category when it comes to the written word, though not when it comes to real flesh and blood people in conversation. I want to know then what's real and what's imaginary.

    I too have felt tricked in literature. There's a well known Australian writer, Helen Garner, with whom I have a love hate relationship of sorts. I am a fan but also critical, and I'm not sure of what, other than it might be something to which you allude.

    Her most recent book, called 'The Spare Room' is described as a novel. The central character also a 'Helen' takes us through her experience of nursing a friend who is dying of cancer.

    Garner is a brilliant writer. I love her work. It's gut wrenchingly honest. A number of reviewers have criticised her however for calling it a novel, when it is so clearly based on a 'true story', her story.

    I have mixed feelings. The book works, I'd say, but we get into such battles over genre. I know genre has a place, and not just in terms of where to locate the books in the book store, but the continual genre identification game frustrates me.

    Your blog example – the couple who created a scam by posing for the blog – may have felt more powerfully deceptive because in the way you describe it, we bloggers had been led into a fantasy that we were keeping a secret with one of the pair unbeknown to other. In the end, it turns out that the couple are both in on the act and keeping a secret from us.

    There's a lot in this topic. Thanks for getting me started again, Jim.

  21. Thanks for the endorsement, Ms moon. I'm glad you found the writing 'true' for al its fabrications.

    It's like acting I'd say and you'd know about that. a good actor can convince us that he/she 'is' the character he/she plays. We don't want to know they are pretending.

  22. I think you're right, Rachel, I should not have gone on about the status of the writing after the event.

    It's a long story, but I was alarmed at how seriously people felt about 'the friend' and that she and they might take the piece as totally factual and not a development of certain 'facts' into my imagination.

    Ah, the hazards of blogging, and of writing. They can clash with reality.

  23. My broken leg is a fact, Parsnip. I have not invented it, though it could also be a useful metaphor for other events in my life.

    It is so easy to fall and for something to come unstuck, or for something to break, as in this story, Dog Babies.

    I look forward to reading your blog on the topic. It will be fascinating to consider it from the artist's perspective.

    Thanks, Parsnip.

  24. It's good when you're new to the circle, as you say Wine and Words, free if expectations.

    I have considered the no comments option, but it's not my style, not at all. I thrive on conversation with others. I welcome feedback, even if it's controversial and critical.

    I enjoy conversations such as these, however much they might unsettle me. To me in part it's what blogging's all about. If there were no opportunity either to comment or to be commented upon, I think I would feel half as good.

    Maybe if I were a more 'serious writer'. And then I say to myself 'wipe these words from your mouth'. What makes me think that a serious writer does not want to discuss their writing. We all want and need an audience.

    Thanks, Wine and Words.

  25. Well Kirk, you'll have to read me with a degree of 'Mortons' as in your Looking Glass cafe, but please, rest assured most of what I write is more based in fact than in fictional though always with liberal doses of fantasy.

    The dog exists. He has just been out for a run in the rain and presently he stinks, but it is a loving stink if such were possible and all is well with my friend despite my liberal misuse of some of her words.

    The dog is not sad. I'm sure if you asked him, he would tell you as much, despite what I have written about him.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  26. You do not wear the dunce's cap, RH, and although you have not caused me sleepless nights with your comments, you have at times caused me to gasp and to fret.

    I read your Pentridge poem once. I'd like to read it again, but I'm not sure where I can find it, on whose post you last included it.

    Humiliation is not a good thing, Robert. It is not helpful. I'm writing an essay about shame at the moment and they – shame and humiliation – are close cousins, and not to be encouraged.

    That's why occasionally I decide not to allow the odd comment from you, only because I do not want to cause anyone humiliation or shame, including you.

    Thanks, RH.

  27. I'd like to think that whatever its genre the writing survives, Art, and not just because it is recorded for posterity somewhere on the Internet, but because it lodges somehow in people's minds, if only as a vague thought or feeling.

    Isn't that what most writers want – 'an answering spark', as the writer Helen Garner once said when she was caught up in a brawl over her writing?

    Thanks, Art.

  28. I'm chuffed, Glenn, that you take pleasure in the ramblings of my internal world, again whatever the genre.

    It's a case of mutual admiration, because I am constantly in awe of what your 'internal' world produces on your blog, and I have not yet once asked myself the question – it is fact or fiction?

    To me it just is – marvellous writing, an Alice in Wonderland adventure through strange new and yet paradoxically familiar landscapes.

    Thanks, Glenn.

  29. You try to read too many blogs, you get lost, confused. Hey Pentridge is on a blog called Copperwitch, and surely you'd know, it's the only blog I favour with my poetic treasures? And she is a thirty stone woman, Miss Jahteh, all humour and all heart, an extraordinary person.
    So if humiliation isn't helful how come millions tune in to enjoy it on reality TV every night? It's sure helpful to advertisers. But close cousins shouldn't be encouraged, I agree with that.
    And seriously, lofty discussion about putting fiction into autobiography is a load of hot air. If an autobiography isn't true it's bullshit. Autobiography (and literature itself) gets loads of bums trying to tamper with it but will never change; there's no therapy in lying about yourself. Script is to do with intention after all, what it's meant to be. If that isn't clear it's a mess. I wouldn't waste time with it.

    But anyway, how come Jim gets a bigger response from you than I do? It goes on for ages. I think you like him better than me.

  30. I guess what I mean is that I'm not a purist.

    With some writers you come to expect an unreliable narrator, or other levels not of deception but of trust: trusting to wherever you're being led, even if it turns fantastical. That's one of the pleasure of reading Borges, you never quite know what's going on.

    I know lots of "straight fiction" writers who don't like Borges because they don't always know what's going on. I even know one writer-critic who thinks Borges is a bad short story writer, but that's because the writer-critic in question has completely missed the point.

    So I look at it this way: Some readers need to have absolute logical, rational knowledge of what's going on. They need a clear, linear narrative in which everything is clear or explained.

    I can appreciate that viewpoint in a mystery novel, but I also like to be led by the writer into surprises and the pleasure of not knowing where I'm going. Right now I'm reading a series of SF novels by British writer Peter F. Hamilton and the writing is inventive and vivid that I have no clue where he's going next, but I certainly am enjoying the ride.

    Life doesn't have simple beginnings, middles, and endings. Life is full of mystery. Life is chaotic—as you know only too well from recent experiences.

    I sometimes think that the demand for clarity and order in our reading is because people are trying to construct a universe in which they can feel safe and secure, an orderly universe in which they know the rules, and which doesn't surprise them. I find that dull, personally, but I understand the psychology behind it.

    On the other hand, I prefer writing that reflects life, that gives me an experience of life, even if it's chaotic and unpredictable. Not always knowing what's going on, or which narrator to believe, doesn't bother me.

    And sometimes we just have to trust that the reader is smart enough to figure it out fro themselves, and doesn't need footnotes.

  31. Elisabeth—I think it's a strong piece of writing because it's rich and unearthed.

    It's very interesting that you start to write about your childhood, babies, your mother having one baby after another, a dog with a docked tail (what would Freud say to that!?), and all of these issues of truth come up. I think the fact that the Dog Babies piece is so provocative shows you're on the right track. Keep going!

  32. If I didn't know better, RH I'd say you were jealous, but of course you're not, it's all just friendly banter delivered with the odd twist.

    I remember now your Pentridge poem on JahTeh's blog and how she spells your name with two b's as in 'Robbert' and I wonder do I spell it right here or have I made it up from JahTeh's blog and you are not a Robert, or a Robbert, just RH.

    Are you fearful that if you start up your own blog that people might not read your work, or that they might leave awful or worse stlll no comments.

    I've said it before. In the right frame of mind – by right I mean, in a 'creative' as opposed to destructive frame of mind, you write well, RH. People I think might enjoy reading you beyond your comments.

    And if you do that, RH – stat a proper blog -I promise I too will leave long comments in response to your comments on mine.

    Thanks again, RH.

  33. Life is unpredictable, as you say Art, and much as there are times when I wish it were more predictable, in many ways I'm glad it's not. How dull it would be.

    I look to be surprised in writing but I also enjoy the odd dose of familiarity, something I can bounce off that says to me, yeah I know that, I feel that, I recognise that.

    Most of all I enjoy it when the familiar meshes with something unusual, something completely way off.

    The writer Gail Jones, another not so well known Australian, talks about 'parataxis', the way two seemingly disparate pieces of information can be placed together, one after the other, and the human mind, with its tendency to make links will find connections, however obscure.

    I suspect the same thing occurs when we combine the so called factual with the fictional – new links become possible. But it's not to everyone's taste as you say for example with Borges's work.

    Thanks, Art.

  34. Freud might have words to say about a 'docked tail', Lynn, as he once did about a cigar, and in the end cigars killed him.

    I like the idea of writing that 'unearths', and if mine has succeeded in this way for you, then I am chuffed.

    Your writing unearths as a regular event, and as I was just saying to Art above, you have a way of putting together the most extraordinary objects, emotions,images and ideas to arrive at and new and amazing places, sometimes quite bizarre. For me unique and moving.

    So this here feels like high praise for me from you.

    Thanks again, Lynn.

  35. I'm glad you enjoyed my Dog Babies, Nancy, and that you feel better equipped to deal with whatever it is I might throw this blog's way.

    I can never tell before hand. It just happens, but I like it that way.

    I suppose that's not unusual for blogs. As far as I can see they are organic and grow out of whatever's available from moment to moment.

    Thanks, Nancy.

  36. Hahaaha, i am not going to read all the comments. Obviously you hit upon something, It's a goldmime!
    now in truth; what you touch upon, the truth or not, comes up daily in my life. And i might write my own post on it. The moral of my story would be….hmmmm similar to yours, All i have to do, is stay true to myself. (whatever that means:) That might mean, (i don't really know my own truth) that to always stay close to my own heart, find the love in it and see where it flows; reality, dreamland, fiction etc.

  37. Gerald Murnane was talking on Radio National last night about his early days as a "secret writer". I was interested, but then he said the word "secret" so many times I wondered if he was okay.

    Thanks for this chance (excuse) anyway to explain a few things. I planted an extra b in Robert after being banned by poetess Alison Croggon (Grogon) from an arty blogsite called Sarsparilla. I'd innocently referred to her as Allison (extra L) and they all went crazy. They wanted to lynch me. To top it off, a year later she booted me out of her poetry workshop at Willy literary festival for laughing, and even tried to get me put off the dole. Don't ever cross a poetess, especially a good looking one, and especially when they know it. All the same, I do admire her control of everything; she's celibate and her husband doesn't know it, nearly fifty and still a brunette, 38-24-38 and lives on lettuce.

    I don't want a blog because:
    1. It's too much work.
    2. I'm not technical.
    3. I'm not bossy.

    I became a blog commentor to socialise with a better class of person (my own class being so cheap) but it hasn't worked out. My failure is I'm not a cheerleader for feminists, refugees, aboriginals, homosexuals, and people who put dog shit in little plastic bags. The middle income types who do support these things could maybe write novels in which they're heroic, and then I'd fail to read them.

    Your thought that I might be fearful of critique is very mistaken.
    It's impossible for anyone to deride my "work" because I laugh at it myself.

  38. It's good t see you here, Jozien, a woman after my own heart, who writes her own 'truth', or at least that which feels truthful for her, even if it is not strictly the truth.

    By the way, Jozien, are you Dutch? I noticed one of your followers writes in Dutch. I assumed therefore, quite wrongly perhaps, that you can speak Dutch, too.

    My parents are Dutch ad I'm therefore interested in the dutch connection. Unfortunately my own Dutch is limited.

    I was born here in Australia but I have such a fondness for most things Dutch.

    Thanks, Jozien.

  39. i suspect there was more to the misspelling of Alison Grogon's name that caused offence, Robbert – is this how you want it with the extra 'b'?

    I had not thought of bloggers as 'bossy', unless you refer to the notion, I've read more than once, 'It's my blog and I'll say what I like on it.' That's a form of bossiness, I suppose.

    And although you say you are not fearful of critics of your work, because you laugh at it yourself, I have two thoughts:

    one is that I can say critical things about myself till the cows come home, but when others say them, it's different and also often we get in first with the self criticism to beat others to it. It becomes a protective device.

    Finally, you seem to me to be caught in a double bind, Robbert. You talk of wanting to associate with a 'better class' of people through your blogging activities and yet most of the categories into which you might fit your better class are all categories you decry.

    To me this is irresolvable. Rather like Groucho Marx – was it ? – who said words to the effect: 'Any club that would have me as a member must be pretty lousy.'

    Thanks, Robbert.

  40. Groucho Marx: "I refuse to join any club that would accept me as a member."

    Your post and comments here have, on the other hand, led me towards posting something in response on my own blog. I take no blame. It's not my fault. It's all your fault. 🙂

  41. I loved how simply Marja summed it up: It is not easy to be a writer, but it isn't easy to be a reader either. There is always an exchange of trust going on, in a(cyber)space rife with people misrepresenting who or what they are, so building that trust is hard and losing it is easy. Readers feel a certain contract is made when a blogger sets a tone for their blog and sticks to it routinely, but should that blogger break from expected routine…well, it happens in the real world too. All hell breaks loose.

    In the end, the truth is the truth is the truth. You can share the truth of your experience through fiction, narration, haiku…whatever you wish. Just be aware that as a blogger, and no matter how hard you try, (just as in real life), people will put expectations on you about who you are, what you write, and what your truth is.

    You can't let it get to you. It is not your fault for not explaining something that did not need explanation, nor is it the reader's fault for expecting to read something that wasn't there.

    We are all in this together, trying to speak the same language.

  42. I used to regret not having gone to university but after seeing some of the tripe these grad donkeys post on their blogs I'm glad I didn't. They've barely got average intelligence. Shelf ornaments. University has done nothing for them, that's what I wanted to find out.

    So why the hell would I want to join them?

    I said associate with, not join with them for goodness sake. Paris is their Jerusalem. They make me sick.

    "It's my blog and I can say what I like." Golly, imagine that, and they couldn't even get a letter printed in a newspaper. In the normal world what you say can be challenged, but not if you're a blogger with your YOUR OWN BLOG! Good heavens, you can ban, silence, all contrary opinion -there now, I'm the boss! What a fairyland.

    It's not just clunkheads that get this way, even PhD's and professors fall for it. Which shows me they were never what I thought they were. I was naive enough once to be in awe of them, these gabbling academics, now I find out they're like any of us: vain, shitting, scratching at their privates. Self-importance makes me laugh like mad.

    Well if you're unsure yourself whether your writing or whatever is any good it's probably not any good. Why would you depend on other people for a verdict? Unless you're a poor judge yourself in which case you should never be trying it at all. Do you have standards? You should have, you should see from writing you admire what's good and what's poor.
    Good writers know they're good, that's all, they don't need anyone else.

  43. Thanks, Art. I take my share of responsibility for stirring the pot, as I say over on your blog. It's great to get these discussions out onto the stove.

    Sorry for the appalling metaphors.
    Hopefully you get my drift

  44. We are all in it together, readers and writers, Phoenix, as you say.

    You might like to take a look at Art Durkee's post on the matter, f yo have not alredy read it. See:

    Art is a poet, musician, artist, photographer and writer, and a deeply thoughtful blogger.,whose work is worth visiting for its depth and intelligence.

    He also has excellent things to say on this matter – expectations in reading other people's writing.

    He is a terrific writer.

    Thanks, Phoenix. Your thoughts also have a level of authenticity that makes it a pleasure to read your writing, too.

  45. I come from a world where doubt is not such a bad thing, RH, doubt and humility.

    Equally, I agree with you that we need to have some confidence in what we write, otherwise we'll never put it out there, nor will we have the strength to cope with whatever criticisms come our way.

    Writers need readers, Robbert, and it helps- the writer at least – to have readers who attempt to make some attempt at understanding what you might be on about, however difficult that might be. Not everyone needs to make sense of it, but at least one or two. Otherwise we write in isolation.

    Writing in many ways is like having a conversation with another. We look for an answering spark.

    Without one, there's not much point other than the sheer joy of the writing itself, which counts for something.

    It's like the satisfaction you might get out of making a fantastic cake. You enjoy the cooking and the presentation, however difficult, but if no one eats it, if no one enjoys it, then you might wonder why you bothered in the first place.

    Of course, there are exceptions.

    Thanks again, Robbert.

  46. When you liken it to conversation you're getting close.
    My deadhead social worker niece has taken to omitting apostrophes. I guess she fancies it's awfully clever. Some bloggers use lower case i for the same reason, others omit full stops. Oh my goodness, how innovative!- changing literature forever!
    My arse. What bunnies. So do you want people to read you? Then make it simple. Casual, like conversation. Why not? People love it. Should they sweat at understanding what the hell you're squawking about?
    And anyway, if you fail it doesn't matter, being alive is enormous fun, there's plenty else to do.

    Only Jahteh calls me Robbert. She does it to poke her tongue out at me (distance herself from my opinions). That way she can put them on her blog without losing friends. (ha ha ha). Good.


  47. Because with each post, article, column, short story, etc, we're shedding a bit of our real-life skin, unconsciously or not. By the way, that's the answer to one of your questions.

    It's funny how sometimes we, humans, love fiction but hate being fooled in real life. 🙂

    Great post. And I love your new avatar.

    Greetings from Londoon.

  48. Reading this discussion, the word "dreamscapes" forms in my mind. They are places to walk with new eyes. For me, the Dog Babies post was a dreamscape, with its ghostly Peta reigning over a child's memory of babies.
    Also, I'm glad I'm a poet and no one expects poetry to be an exercise in reality. It's an impression of a moment in time in one creature's experience. Poems are fleeting glimpses through very small windows, with the elements carefully selected to elicit a certain response or convey a particular idea that may have a grain of universal truth in it…. But nobody expects poets to be newspaper journalists.

    I have noticed that readers in their empathy tend to think that a writer's thought describes something that's true for her or him all the time. A sad poem elicits comments sometimes that aim to encourage or offer advice. It's very sweet of us, to care so much and wish to help.
    But reader friends who are a blog's regulars soon learn that the writer's experiences are a quilt made of fleeting moments. I like your new header, with its sense of partial revelations.

    No need for apologies, I think. Clarifications are fine. Sometimes I introduce a piece with a caveat, just to make life simpler.

    Juvenile dogs, in our household anyway, are notorious chewers, and their access to stuff I don't want chewed is well limited. They grow out of that phase in a while. It's easier to remove them from the temptation than to teach them to control themselves.

    Have a good weekend!

  49. People are interested in people – writing which appeals to many people is that which contains some universal truths, and which people/readers can relate to /see themselves in. I suspect many of your readers read you because they like you as they have come to know you. Also they have come to have certain expectations of your writing, ie that it presents them with more knowledge about you and reaffirms what it is they like about you/your writing and what that reflects about themselves. When you present truth about yourself it can become almost addictive to people (just as celeb mags seem to be to some), some readers may, perhaps without realising (and this is in no way aimed at Jim or any commenters in particular – am am skimming and generalising here so please, I hope no one takes offense, I don't want to offend you, Elisabeth) come here seeking more of what they expect and then feel cheated as they would if they picked up that magazine and saw it was full of pics of their own bathrooms. I suppose I don't think that you cheated though, you still shared your pshchology with your readers, which is way more interesting to me than (sorry – but your broken leg freaked me out!) broken bones.

    Hope that makes sense and that you can interpret through my hasty reductions to the ideas beyond the immediate text.

  50. I'm speaking as a reader of course, like the Bishop ordering his Tomb, or Hamlet giving acting lessons. There's so much dull stuff around now: slow, decorative. It isn't that I want Henry Miller back again, with his bald head and his bicycle. Henry was crude, vulgar -and new, but now he's old. Fuck is a tired word now, not like when Henry said it. And Parisian statues have tattooed admirers.

    -My thanks to you all.

  51. I'm glad you enjoy my new avatar, Cuban. I see it as presenting a multifaceted view of myself, my many selves, which I suppose fits in well with what I've written here.

    You're right, we love fiction but hate to be fooled. As long as we know we are being told 'untruths', it's okay, but if we think we are being told facts and they turn out to be otherwise we feel betrayed, even as we ourselves might do it too, from time to time.

    There's a personality test in which they ask the question, 'do you ever lie?' If you answer never, then they assume you are unreliable, because from time to time, everyone lies.

    Thanks, Cuban.

  52. I think the idea of a 'dreamscape' is apt, Chris. It makes so much sense to me.

    And, yes, I agree people seem to expect different things from poets than from prose writers. Though there is often a carry on about whether or not poetry is autobiographical, and therefore it seems some say think inferior.

    To my mind, all creative writing is autobiographical, however fictional because it comes from within the mind of the writer.

    A writer might make things up, but even those made up things have to live somewhere inside the writer to be able to 'come out'.

    You can't produce something that isn't inside in some shape or form, at least I can't see how.

    Not that people are computers who need information put in first, but people do have a way of processing information that is inside in different ways so that it can come out in new and unique forms.

    Thanks, Chris.

  53. I agree with you Rachel, one of the joys of writing in the blogosphere is the sense that we come to know one another and with that sense come certain expectations of what we might find. When we don't find them we can be disappointed.

    I've been reading up on notions of shame and one of the things that is clear about shame is the degree to which it is induced in part on the basis of unmet expectations.

    In spite of ourselves, we come to look for certain levels of familiarity and when these change it can be very unsettling.

    On the other hand, if things are too predictable that can be a total turn off.

    I very much doubt that you've offended anyone with your comments here, Rachel, least of all me. Thanks.

  54. I agree with you Rachel, one of the joys of writing in the blogosphere is the sense that we come to know one another and with that sense come certain expectations of what we might find. When we don't find them we can be disappointed.

    I've been reading up on notions of shame and one of the things that is clear about shame is the degree to which it is induced in part on the basis of unmet expectations.

    In spite of ourselves, we come to look for certain levels of familiarity and when these change it can be very unsettling.

    On the other hand, if things are too predictable that can be a total turn off.

    I very much doubt that you've offended anyone with your comments here, Rachel, least of all me. Thanks.

  55. Thanks for both of your final comments here, RH, Robert, with one 'b'.

    I'm exhausted, and it's late. I've been working all day. I can't add much to what you say here, other than to offer you my thanks.

  56. There are exceptions associated with certain types of blogs. If you are writing fiction you should tell the readers or turn off the comments otherwise you are accepting feedback under false assumptions.

    Everyone is free to write whatever and how ever they feel but I do think they have an obligation to inform the reader if they are reading fiction.

  57. It is my responsibility to write as I should. It is the reader's responsibility to take it as they should. (Neither reader or writer control the other.) If I judge, I have read incorrectly.

  58. Hi Bathwater.

    I'm not sure about such strict rules within the blogosphere. Maybe you didn't mean them to sound so strict.

    I'd have thought everyone is free to do as they see fit, whether they write fiction, non-fiction and all things in between, and not necessarily spell it out to the reader. Readers are discerning, they read as they will.

    There are so many things in between fiction and non-fiction, given the complex nature of life, of memory and imagination.

    My view is that if you want comments then so be it, leave the opportunity available and if you don't, then turn the comments facility off.

    I'm not sure that the inclusion of comments should be dictated by genre. There are plenty of so-called fiction writers who welcome comments and others, nonfiction writers, who might prefer that no one comment.

    I enjoy a dialogue of sorts in so far as it's possible within the blogosphere, even if it makes for the occasional conflict.

    We all share so many diverse ideas and opinions, it's pretty inevitable that we won't always agree.

    Thanks, Bathtwater.

  59. Thanks, Mike. It is a vexed area.

    I suspect most people who write in so-called 'creative' ways, whether fiction or non-fiction, have some understanding of the difficulties of distinguishing too strictly between the two genres.

    I agree with you, my responsibility as a writer is to write and as a reader it is to read.

    The two activities are different and the one cannot control or dictate to the other, especially not when the writer and reader are 'not' as one.

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