The big project I’m working on lately has me thinking about the particular alloys of experience and invention that fiction writers use in their work. Like, I think, a lot of readers, I enjoy spotting the things in a work of fiction that seem like they must have been drawn from life–the things that come through with the clarity of memory. But the experiences that truly, personally resonate for us can translate to the page very poorly. Think of authors who set a scene by citing the pop song that’s playing: ten years goes by, and your youth anthem is my oldie. Or The Goldfinch: I get it! You gotta see this painting in person to grasp how awesome it is! But all I have is a book in my hands, and I’m afraid you’ve lost me. And I sometimes wonder if those things that spring off the page as “true” aren’t exactly the ones that are invented out of whole cloth.

Out at one end of the continuum, I’ve always been vaguely skeptical of thinly-veiled autobiography; it seems like cheating. I very much enjoy reading Kenzaburo Oe, for example, but I end up uncomfortable with the unknown amount of himself that he’s put into something like The Changeling. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to dislike memoir, so I suppose I’m consistent, at least.  Never mind that all creative expression, and indeed our very sense of “reality,” are necessarily mediated by individual perception and experience, so the idea of “pure fiction” (or its opposite) is, at its core, a fiction.

So there’s that. Meanwhile, I have a couple of pounds of Knausgaard staring me in the face. Not sure if that’ll help.