Some years ago I read Donald Polkinhorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (1988). The book focused my interest in narrative that was emerging during my PhD studies and led me to some fascinating discussions in anthropological discourse.
Since starting this blog I have become more and more interested in the process of writing and a number of posts in this blog explore some of these interests.
Picture by Underpuppy included here under Creative Commons’ licence.
Recently I have been making a lot of car journeys and a number of my trips have been enriched by ABC Radio National and Classic FM. This post pulls together some of the items I have heard to explore narrative and story telling. From my reading in the 1980s many of things I have heard identify writing as thick description.
Here are some themes:
Creative Eloquence (Ramona Koval) following her discussions with Sarah Waters. I thought this was a delightful discussion about research, observation and writing. There is a transcript of the program and an audio recording. I liked this part of the discussion:
I certainly like to do enough research to give me a grasp of the period, to make me know what its important issues are. But at the same time that’s just the foundation for me too. I mean, there’s always a point when I want to leave research behind, and as my characters and their particular stories…they sort of emerge for me out of the mists of research, in a sense, and once I have them in my head I’m very keen then to pursue their stories.
Holding Close (Anne Michaels talking with Margaret Throsby). Anne Michaels discusses her move from poetry to write Fugitive Pieces. The holding close idea explored the relationship between author and reader. In Anne Michael’s writing there is a clear sense of an implied reader who resonates with the author’s narrative if not a specific experience. They discussed memory too in relation to The Winter Vault. I thought this was a fascinating program about the craft of writing. One of the musical pieces Anne Michael’s chose for the program was Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. There is a wonderful line in the song that observes “And you treated my woman to a flake of your life“.
On re-hearing Leonard Cohen’s song I wondered about the relationship between thick description and a flake of life. I wondered too about how phenomenological understanding coheres around narrative. Whilst pondering this I happened to listen to a reading of Patrick White’s The Solid Mandala. Arthur and Waldo Brown provide a fascinating way to explore creativity I believe.
I liked too the mention of Deep Gossip in a discussion of Liam Rector‘s work. As we explore different media to share ideas it seems to me that all these themes have a place in the craft of our stories and re-presentations. Brian Castro’s interview with Ramona Koval underscored this for me. He took a different approach to Anne Michael’s. He observes that:
I think it’s…Edward Said wrote a book called On Late Style and he was talking about Beethoven and several other people, and I think that incorporates what I’m probably getting towards, a kind of irritation with explanation, but not in terms of presence but inside the text. So I try not to make things too clear, too…you know, I don’t want to hold the hand of the reader.
I have a lot of reading to do! Brian Castro’s The Bach Fugues, Anne Michael’s The Winter Vault, Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger and Patrick White’s The Solid Mandala will provide a fascinating few weeks!