bs johnson

… he was also the victim of his own dogmas, the most tendentious of which was his belief that ‘telling stories is telling lies’, so that novelists should in effect confine themselves to providing accurate recreations of their own personal experience. This theory was not at all well thought out. Joyce, for instance, who was one of Johnston’s great idols, never did anything of the sort, neither did Beckett, another mentor. Eva Figes argued the point with him a number of times and provides all that we need by way of counter-argument:

By concentrating too much on form,
on literal truth, I think Bryan lost touch
with an essential, great truth,
that the only way to tell the truth is
by lying,
and that is the real
starting point of meaningful fiction.

(I’ve obsessed over this since I read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve reread it about thirty times. You can read more here if you so wish. This bit comes from the 1991 review in The Spectator by Jonathan Coe. I don’t want those two words together on my blog, but it’s to help you find more.)

2 thoughts on “bs johnson

  1. Wait, JJ didn’t not do that either, right? Lots of JJ in Stephen, lots and lots.

    [CR originally posted this but it was deleted by mistake: I thought it was spam. Apologies.]

  2. CR – I’m not sure. I haven’t read enough of him yet to know. What interested me in this extract was the dedication to truth – an obsession I share. But how to explore truth, and tell truth, is a very hard question, a great dilemma that causes me an enormous amount of anxiety.

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