Perhaps there are truths suggested by fantasy, or magical realism in its many forms, and certainly every writer of fiction embellishes his perception, to make his work even more ‘true.’ But the work I am trying to do is realistic, describing a world which loosely holds my characters together, while showing how their perceptions of it interlace and enrich each other’s evolution into the adults they seek to become.
Jean Renoir, the great humanist filmmaker and son of Pierre Renoir, in the Christmas issue of Cahiers du cinema in 1957, wrote: “I love reality, and I’m happy to love it because it brings me infinite joy. But it happens that many people hate it, and most human beings, whether or not they make films, whether they’re workers, store owners, or dramatists, create a kind of veil between reality and themselves. … If we live simply and make our living in any profession – say as an employee in a business – we can still try to break through the kinds of veils that surround us and to see things as they are, since they’re so beautiful, so enchanting. People say, ‘If only film brought us more enchantment and put us in a pleasant dream!’ But instead, it’s reality that’s the pleasant dream.”
I will admit that representations of reality in the current culture are degraded beyond any recognition. In a highly acclaimed recent television series, the hero is a high school chemistry teacher who produces and sells crystal meth to make money before he dies of cancer. Really? In politics, the right and the left struggle to tell a story about our country which includes a majority of the people, while insisting that the other side is “totally out of touch with reality.” Who wins in this scenario? Don tells the story of the Kendrick Lamar video he shot at Christmas in Compton in which an angelic chorus of six to ten-year-olds behind him sang along with the lyrics: “Pussy and Patron will make you feel alright, Pussy and Patron, that’s some great advice.”
Lately, I’ve been looking backward to nonfiction and biography, in which reality is the aim, though recreated from historical papers and documents. I just finished Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961, the wonderful work of Paul Hendrickson. It’s a biography in which Hendrickson participates, reporting and imagining how it was for Hemingway in his real life, especially as it was in Key West, Cuba and on the Gulf Stream. Hendrickson doesn’t stint on the cruelty of the man, but sees him in his complexity with his own large heart. Hendrickson cuts through some of the veils which have obscured Hemingway, who sat down almost every day and tried to put down one 'true' sentence, followed by another.
|Jesse Starnes at the Roosevelt Apartments|