Beyond Fiction; Project introduction (14th Jan 14)

‘Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.’

The above quote is by American author Mark Twain. The quote comes from a man who is evidence for it’s sentiment. Twain abhorred slavery in America, saying of the emancipation proclamation that it ‘not only set the black slaves free, but set the white man free also’. But the same hand that wrote these words, also wrote ‘Such is the genuine Noble Aborigine. I did not get him from books, but from
personal observation.’ after a scathing moral attack on the Native Americans, with accusations that they be compulsive murderers, liars, unclean, and immoral in his short piece of writing Noble Red Man.

These character traits are not necessarily inconsistent. A person can be disgusted by slavery’s inherent cruelty and hardship whilst still lining their thoughts with prejudices against the races which are the victims of these injustices.

Though sometimes fumblingly handled, Twain’s fiction was more often born from a humbler approach to dealing with those who he found it difficult to empathise with. But the writer’s opinions and creative output can now seem very strangely worded because of the mass of changes that have happened since (such as the abolition of slavery and the collective effort to empathise with each-other culturally whilst also becoming more sensitive in discussing these issues in the novel form).

Twain’s eclectic views are stranger than his fiction, and his fiction is, I imagine much stranger to read now because of the ‘truths’ that have taken place since his fiction was written. Fiction is obliged not only to stick to possibilities as Twain says, but to stick to the very localised possibilities of the time and place.  

In our introduction lecture for the field module entitled Beyond Fiction, we were instructed to go out into the world and take direct inspiration from it, both physically and cerebrally. We are instructed to go out and find ‘clues’, which encourage a narrative. As well as this, we are to find stories from anywhere we can, with the eventual intent, I think, of collaging the bits and pieces we have found (collected from Newspaper clippings, receipts, lists, archives, overheard/observed conversations) to vaguely illustrate the narratives that we have collected.

Within this module is the opportunity of working in collaboration, and to organically work through our creativity using the ‘ingredients’ that we’ve gathered, to create something that we haven’t set out to create from the brief outlines.

My bullet-point notes from the lecture run as followed :

  • “Truth is Stranger than Fiction”
  • Linear or non-linear
  • Read collage book ‘Woman’s World’ (fiction, post-modern, man woman split personality)
  • Create ‘a rattling good yarn’ – Amelia quoting her father
  • Read some Salman Rushdie – Magic realism (it’s not fantasy)
  • Story and trickery – man accused of young Bristol Architect’s murder  was metaphorically strung up by the press and public because a good sinister character had been created around him
  • IDEA- telescope/apocalyptic meteor drama, with a collapsing twist “I spoke to the fairies the other day”
  • We observe our characters through OUR reality
  • Look up Mexican Miracle painting
  • Look up Saul Steinberg






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