View Full Version : Shaw on The Subject of Writing

Ron Price
01-11-2008, 11:56 PM

Roland Barthes argues that autobiography should be considered as something spoken by a character in a novel or, rather, by several characters. In a novel the image-repertoire, the fatal substance and the labyrinth of levels in which anyone who speaks about himself is entirely fictive. The image-repertoire is expressed by several masks or personae which are distributed according to the depth, the extent, of the stage. The novel does not choose, it functions by alteration; it proceeds by impulses. So is this true of the essay or autobiographical poetry, although there is a strong element of choice in the writing--I would argue. The approaches to novel writing are never anything but approaches to resonance. The substance of the novel, ultimately, is totally fictive. Intrusions into the discourse of the essay or the discourse of poetry refer to a fictive creature. All these genres require remodeling in light of this perspective. Let the essay or the poem see themselves as 'almost a novel:' a novel without proper names. -Ron Price with thanks to Roland Barthes, Writings on the Internet, 21 March 2002.

The whole thing is defined
by some big picture,
some made self
and a quite precise facticity
where the meaning changes,
restoring the experience,
beyond any meaning
I ever assigned back then,
in some complex combination
of the eventful and uneventful.

And as the novel ends
and the last chapter begins
to unfold---I tell of a joy
in being thoroughly worn out,1
before being thrown on the heap,
ready for the proverbial endgame.

And that tree which is my life,
arrayed with these fresh leaves,
blossoms and fruits
of consecrated joy
also has some blight,
complex twists and turns
and will one day
be denuded of all verdure.

1 George Bernard Shaw in A Fortunate Life: A.B. Facey, Jan Carter, Pengui, 1981, p.325.

Ron Price
22 March 2002