Some time ago, I started a little ad hoc Favourite Quotes series but I haven’t added to it for some time. This post, I actually drafted back then, but never got around to completely it, but I will now!
One of my favourite Australian writers, though I’ve only reviewed one of her recent books on my blog, is Marion Halligan. It’s fitting therefore, that she feature in this little series. The quotes – and there are four – all come from The fog garden, which was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the Nita Kibble Literary Award (which is for “life writing”). I loved it, and felt it deserved these and more accolades.
I read The fog garden in 2002, a year after it came out, and so, unfortunately, a few years before blogging. It’s an autobiographical novel. In other words, it’s a novel, it’s fiction, but it draws from Halligan’s life. It is about Clare, a novelist, and how she copies with grief after the death of her beloved husband. The novel was triggered or inspired by, or a response to – I’m not sure which here is the most accurate – the death of Halligan’s husband of 35 years.
What I love about it is that as well as being about grief, and the wisdom one learns from the tough experiences of life, it is also about fiction. What I love, in other words, is that it’s about life, it’s about writing, and it is also about reading. It asks us readers to think about how we read. It’s cheeky – and those of you who know how much I love Jane Austen, how much I love Carmel Bird, will know how much I love cheeky writers.
So, here is our first person narrator writing about her character Clare:
She isn’t me. She’s a character in fiction. And like all such characters she makes her way through the real world which her author invents for her. She tells the truth as she sees it, but may not always be right. (p. 9)
I mean, really, you’ve got to love that. It’s the real world, but a version of it invented by the author for her character. Just because it’s a recognisable world, and just because the things Clare says and does are “true” doesn’t mean that they are the things author Halligan said, did and believed. They could be but they aren’t necessarily so, and we should not assume they are so, because this is fiction not a memoir. If Halligan had wanted to write a memoir she certainly would have. By writing fiction Halligan was freer to explore her feelings and to play with where they might take her.
Anyhow, here again is our first person narrator writing about writing Clare:
A reader could think that, since Clare is my character, I can make all sorts of things happen to her that I can’t make happen to myself. This is slightly true, but not entirely … only if it is not betraying the truths of her life and character as I have imagined them. (p. 10)
Of course: once you create a character, that character must be true to what you have created.
And here is a little insight into the challenges of writing. I certainly know about writers’ metaphors that have taken me in wrong directions.
That is the trouble with metaphor, it may take you to places you don’t want to go. (p. 279)
And, finally, one of my favourite quotes from all the books I’ve read, and one I’ve shared before.
Read a wise book and lay its balm on your soul.
If you haven’t read The fog garden, and ever get a chance, do give it a go. It’s a wise – but also lively – book.
Meanwhile, do any of these quotes speak to you?