The Word According to Carp: A Note on Fiction


Dave at Muenster
Emerging from the depths, Muenster, Saskatchewan
Photo by Honor Kever

Imagine we're sitting in a quiet bar. At the next table a woman turns to her friend and says, 'Okay, it's my fictive structure. I think he's...you know ...stepping out on me.' I think I'd tune her out at this point and spend my time in conversation with you.
        Now let's replace 'fictive structure' with 'boyfriend.' Pardon me for being nosy, but I would try to listen to that woman's story. Why is he stepping out on her? How does she know? What advice will her friend offer? What will the first woman do about the wayward boyfriend? You bet your life I'd listen, and perhaps you would too.
        The stories I like to read are similarly compelling. They remind me of what life is like, what love is like; they explore the moral complexities of being alive right now; they shed light, perhaps even compassionate wisdom, on these complexities without conning us into believing in all the insidious optimism of T.V. soaps, sitcoms, primetime melodrama, or in the commercially inspired brutality of movies with violent resolutions to human problems. I'm also a bit tired of reading about writers writing about writing unless (like Joyce or Kundera) they do it well. I am tired of self- conscious fiction in which I am invited to behold an author dragging a fictive structure across a page and urged to applaud his wit and learning. I want to read intelligent narratives about believ-able people and I want to feel something of their lives. And some day soon I would love to write a story so compelling that you turn away from me, and hearken instead to my story as you might hearken to the women wrestling with the sad mysteries of love at the next table.



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