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Thread: The Art of Lying.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    The Art of Lying.

    The Art of Lying.

    Chapter 1.

    Retirement had, if he was honest with himself, brought about some pleasures he had neither envisaged nor appreciated previously.

    It was a whole new ball game. Time; that generally perceived covert robber was to be embraced, and a library of books, accumulated over the years, beckoned suggestively; like lovers for renewed or first-time reckless consummation.

    No longer the usage of formal text books to pass exams. Here was the final journey; the chance of one burning glow darting out a shower of brilliant images, leaping in a white-hot spark across gaps unbridgeable by thought, passing through a commonplace leaving it luminous and transparent, melting a group of heterogeneous ideas into a short-lived unity and, then as suddenly as a flame, dying.

    It was therefore of no small importance to take the first steps in a controlled manner. He had thought it both prudent and logical to start with the Ancient Greeks. But the more he delved, the more unexpected tangential links led to new destinations.

    Then of course came the aspiration to personal creativity, in a barely suppressed desire to use such stimuli and write.

    His living room where his books were kept was akin a monk's cloister; with the house being situated in a cul de sac residence that provided comforting seclusion with few visitors.

    There was however one cloud that had appeared in his thinking and which mitigated against the desire to write. He really questioned whether you can rob a story of its reality and meaning by making it too true?

    It depended, he supposed upon its purpose. A story can be a flight of the imagination, or conversely a rendition of facts. Thus, while the transformation of Dr. Jekyll might read dangerously like an experiment out of “the Lancet”, the lies and spin coming out of the mouths of a number of political figures recently, had elevated them into a realm of fantasy worthy of some of the greatest fictional novels of English literature.

    Some of course were only third-rate liars, adept only in the art of concealing what was not worth finding. The press had then subsequently hunted down the obvious, with the enthusiasm of short-sighted detectives; especially if a bit of solicitous dirt was scented from afar. This led, albeit with a modicum of black humour, to a situation where the suspense of the writer had become almost unbearable.

    However the crux was that there had, almost imperceptibly arisen, the decay of lying as an art, with science, and social pleasure being responsible for a decline in a modern literature excessively concerned with the representation of facts and social reality.

    It begged the question in his mind as to whether life imitated art, or was it more likely the other way around? For it touched upon human behaviour in social situations itself, in that it was becoming more difficult to distinguish whether the laws of etiquette governing polite society, were in fact, a mask, and if tact was merely an elaborate art of impression management?

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Manichean,

    An interesting beginning, these time the journey is of a different sort than usual, it is a journey into literature.

    "He really questioned whether you can rob a story of its reality and meaning by making it too true?"

    This seems to be a paradox. I will try answering it as I can.
    I am not sure if the opposition when you refer to fiction is thuth versus lie. To my mind a good story has to be convincing in the first place. The reader has to believe in it whether ist elements are realistic, phantastic, SF or whatever. If you, for example, examine Edgar Allan Poe´s horror stories closely, they aren´t possible. For example can you imagine frail and sickly Madeline from "The Fall of the House of Usher", recently avoken from dead, crash though a heavy wooden door and then crushing her brother to dead? On a realistic level this is nonsense or comedy. But, on a deep psychological level there is a thuth, which make as accept the story and cringe with horror. The Greeks solved their incongruences by attributing them to different gods.

    The second point, I think is, a good story has to seduce its readers that is more difficult done than said.

    For example I don´t like the Brazilian Hiperrealism. Maybe this is what you mean that "you can rob a story of its reality and meaning by making it too true". There are several good authors, but Hipperrealism doesn´t leave any room for fantasy, it is as crude and direct as the reality it represents.

    A good story has to convince and seduce their readers.

    As for the representation of reality,the slogan of one of our humour programs is: "It is difficult to compete with reality, but we keep doing our best".
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Danik

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, a different journey from that planned to the Far East. Trying to be prudent whilst this corona virus is spreading.

    Hence, as noted, a more internal venture. I wanted to examine the interplay between fiction and reality, when applied to storytelling. It throws up some interesting questions; not that there are necessarily any definitive answers. Thus:

    Where is the balance between the two concepts? Very likely a value judgement.

    Do we try to write fiction still preconditioned by our experiences and known facts? There must be one hell of an influence here. Grahame Greene used to write down any dreams he had, upon awakening; then use them to dig deeper into his subconscious thinking.

    Fully agree that the Ancient Greeks, (as discussed before) had the best of both worlds. When you have a belief in a whole plethora of Gods; constantly intervening in the affairs of mortals, or even demi-gods, then there is no restraint or excuse for writing a good tale. You don’t need to seduce: the table is laid and the dishes served up.

    As for “Hyperrealism,” is not the fact, that it exaggerates reality, in itself a form of fiction? The current US President strikes me as a case in point!!

    Best wishes
    M.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Thanks, Manichaean,
    One thing that puzzles me a bit, is that you sometimes finish your posts with "Best wishes, M." I used to regard it as simple politeness, but of late I have thought, that it might be a polite way of putting a full stop to a discussion, like giving a hat to a visitor, to show him/her that it is time to leave. Accordingly I have withdrawn from commenting or continuing to discuss some of your topics.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Haha. Good Lord no. In fact I appreciate your input. There are so many on this forum that stand and look, but never get into the water.

    Excuse my anarchic sign off. It's just the way we were raised after the war.

    Take care buddy.

  6. #6
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Thanks for you explanation, Manichaean. That was what I thought at first. I´m glad for you are bringing forward interesting discussion topics of late.

    So, back to The Art of Lying.
    "I wanted to examine the interplay between fiction and reality, when applied to storytelling."-
    Well this still is, I suppose, one of the great questions of the Literary Studies. It is a complex matter that evolves the idea of how art imitates life and it goes back to the old concept of "Mimesis".
    "Mimesis (/mɪˈmiːsɪs, mə-, maɪ-, -əs/;[1] Ancient Greek: μίμησις mīmēsis, from μιμεῖσθαι mīmeisthai, "to imitate", from μῖμος mimos, "imitator, actor") is a term used in literary criticism and philosophy that carries a wide range of meanings which include imitatio, imitation, nonsensuous similarity, receptivity, representation, mimicry, the act of expression, the act of resembling, and the presentation of the self.[2]

    In ancient Greece, mimesis was an idea that governed the creation of works of art, in particular, with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and the good. Plato contrasted mimesis, or imitation, with diegesis, or narrative. After Plato, the meaning of mimesis eventually shifted toward a specifically literary function in ancient Greek society, and its use has changed and been reinterpreted many times since.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis

    "Fully agree that the Ancient Greeks, (as discussed before) had the best of both worlds. When you have a belief in a whole plethora of Gods; constantly intervening in the affairs of mortals, or even demi-gods, then there is no restraint or excuse for writing a good tale. You don’t need to seduce: the table is laid and the dishes served up."

    When I used the word "seduce", I was referring of how a text is written, no matter its inspiration. Using your comparison, I would say that Greek Mitology or whatever reference one uses, are the ingredients and the writer is the cook who has to turn them into palatable or even exquisite dishes. These days I happened on some modern renderings of Greek dramas, which I thought very bad. But then I have an old fashioned taste.

    "One of the best-known modern studies of mimesis, understood as a form of realism in literature, is Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, which opens with a famous comparison between the way the world is represented in Homer's Odyssey and the way it appears in the Bible. From these two seminal texts, the Odyssey being Western and the Bible having been written by a variety of Mid-Eastern writers, Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including the Modernist novels being written at the time Auerbach began his study. In art history, "mimesis", "realism" and "naturalism" are used, often interchangeably, as terms for the accurate, even "illusionistic", representation of the visual appearance of things."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis
    Auerbach´s selection of texts spans from the Bible and Homer to "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf.The chapter start with the citation of a significant scene from a novel and then follows a minute analysis.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  7. #7
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Danik

    Thanks for coming up with some very interesting perspectives on this whole question of whether art imitates life, or vice versa.

    I must confess to not having read any of Eric Auerbach’s work; though his work on Mimesis, written from his enforced exile in Istanbul must have been both pleasurable and daunting. How the hell do you pull all that amount of material together? Do you know what was his overall conclusion?

    You mention where he correlates, (if that’s the right word?) a Homeric myth and the Old Testament. For me, the former; in this case “The Odyssey”, contains a simplicity of characters, once we break through the whole thing of the cheek by jowl existence of gods, with mortals who are imbued with heroic instincts. That’s why in Pindar's poetry there is invariably portrayed a meeting ground for gods, heroes and men, where even the dead are spoken of as participants:

    “Deep in the earth, their hearts listen.”

    With the Old Testament on the other hand, there is a greater depth and multiplicity of meanings, all yearning for interpretation i.e. not after realism, but truth.

    Perhaps it would be useful if we can determine what is a realist?

    There are many writers whose style alone would be sufficient to keep life at a respectable distance. Almost, children of realism, not on speaking terms with their fathers, if you will excuse my black humour.

    Take Balzac as a case in point. All Balzac’s characters are gifted with the same ardour of life that animated himself. All his fictions are as deeply coloured as dreams. It was as if, he created life, but certainly he did not copy it.

    The ultimate difficult bit that I’ve been wrestling with, (in between sips of vodka/orange), is the difference between unimaginative realism and imaginative reality.
    Art by definition, begins with purely imaginative work dealing with what is unreal and non-existent. This is the first stage. Then Life becomes fascinated with this new wonder, and asks to be admitted into the charmed circle. Art takes Life as part of her rough material; recreates it, and refashions it in fresh forms, is absolutely indifferent to fact, invents, imagines, dreams, and keeps between herself and reality the barrier of style, or decorative treatment.

    Thus, by this process, we possibly have a new Cćsar stalking through the streets of a risen Rome; whilst with purple sail and flute-led oars another Cleopatra passes up the river to Antioch. Old myth and legend and dream take shape and substance. History itself gets entirely re-written, and subsequent and evolving dramatists though the ages recognize that the object of Art is not simple truth but complex beauty. Art itself then, is really a form of exaggeration.

    I’m glad you made reference to visual art. Pre-retirement I was all for the written word, but since then, I have developed this new passion.

    But relating it to the subject under discussion, I have formed the opinion that great artists invent a type, and then Life tries to copy it, to reproduce it in a popular form.
    I'm thinking of the popularity in the Victorian age of Rossetti’s dream paintings; women portrayed with long ivory throats, strange square-cut jaws, loosened shadowy hair; replicas of the passion-pale face of Andromeda, or the thin hands and lithe beauty of the Vivian in “Merlin’s Dream.”

    The Ancient Greeks, (who we both appreciate), with their quick artistic instinct, understood this, and set in the bride’s chamber the statue of Hermes or of Apollo, that she might bear children as lovely as the works of art that she looked at in her rapture or her pain. They knew that Life gains from art not merely spirituality, depth of thought and feeling, but that she can form herself on the very lines and colours of art, and can reproduce the dignity of Pheidias as well as the grace of Praxiteles. Hence came their objection to realism. They disliked it on purely social grounds. They felt that it inevitably makes people ugly, and perhaps they were right.

    Finally, you talk about Nature, and this I think is where the visual art comes in again e.g. Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down London streets, blurring the street lamps and changing the houses into strange shadows?

    At the time, as a child in London, a thick fog was mysterious, but still just a fog, a quirk of nature.

    But Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence. So now when I see a fog, it is different, because poets and painters have taught me otherwise.

    Hope you are getting better weather than us at the moment. Here its storms, cold, and wind.

    Cheers
    M.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Manichaean,

    You mentioned this matter of art imitating reality, and then I remembered that Mimesis was one of our "must" books at the University. It is a reunion of essays based on several works from different western countries. The selection is chronological. It starts with Homer and the Bible and finishes with an Essay on a scene out of "To the Lighthouse" from Virginia Woolf. So it roughly covers the period from ancient times until the modernity of early 20. C.

    Its a long time now that I have read these essays, some o which I have reread several times, so I can´t remember any details any more. But if I remember rightly the aim is to show, how different views and different sensibilities dealt with the reality of representation producing a work of art. I don´t think he intends a conclusion, all these works are valid, and are the result of a particular perception of time and place.

    I don´t remember any more how the first essay "Ulisses scar" compares the episode of Ulisses return with the biblical story of Abraham, but maybe you will like to take a look for yourself. I am leaving you a link to the Pdf of the book. You would possibly enjoy the essay. It is not technical in the usual way. It is rather meant for people with a solid background in Literature, than for specialists.
    https://epdf.pub/mimesis-the-represe...iterature.html

    I am glad you mentioned Balzac, as he is considered the great master of realism. You read a few pages and you know everything about a character, who he is, what he does, his social background and yes he is very much alive. One almost knows him personally. But one thinks the same about Dicken´s characters and yet they often seem less real and more ideal. Maybe because with Balzac they are not so sternly divided in good and bad characters.

    "The ultimate difficult bit that I’ve been wrestling with, (in between sips of vodka/orange), is the difference between unimaginative realism and imaginative reality."
    If think, that´s a good point you are making. I would say, for example, that Dickens´realism is very imaginative, because it borrows a lot of elements from fairy tales. Brazilian hiperrealism, on the other hand, is very close to an newspaper article. It strikes me as strong, but not very imaginative Realism.

    "But relating it to the subject under discussion, I have formed the opinion that great artists invent a type, and then Life tries to copy it, to reproduce it in a popular form." I don´t know much about paintings. But reading about your example of the statues of Hermes and Apolo (but where are Venus and Artemis) in the room of the brides I remembered The Picture Of Dorian Grey, which seems to go in a different direction as it is converted into the secret depository fo ugliness and vice.

    I have still to think better on what you wrote about Nature.
    Today, we are having a mild summer day( about 25ş) but on Monday Săo Paulo was flooded by the rain. It rained for several hours and the fact is, that the Brazilian cities have become so impermealised, that they are constantly flooded: people lose their houses and their belongings, cars are washed away by the floods like toys, people have to be saved by rubber boats and helicopters, boxes and boxes with fruit and vegetables were washed away at the central that
    funishes them to the whole city...

    I wish us all a milder weather.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  9. #9
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Danik

    Thanks for the link on mimeses. Very interesting and instructive, though I have not got through it all yet. Did you take your degree in English Literature? I ask, because I always wondered what would have happened if I had taken the same path. I took degrees, initially in Monetary Economics and later in Engineering, ( all designed with an eye to making money!!) But I would have loved to have had the chance to take that course. But no problem, as I remain self-taught which allows me to proceed at my own pace, with freedom of direction.

    Cheers
    M.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Hi, Manichaean,


    LitNet Site is doing its tricks again. Let´s see if I can post this.

    My aim was mainly to fuel the discussion on "The Art of Lying" which is seminal for literature. I didn´t want to bring you to read the book or even the first essay unless you really felt like it.

    I have a degree in Comparative Literature. I chose that because it didn´t restrict me to only one literature.

    I think you made good choices. It is very difficult to make money out of literature unless you are a commercially successful writer. I think you were right, I regret today not having giving enough attention to the making of money. If you had chosen a literary career you certainly would have earned less money and you probably would have traveled less. And, as you say, you can read at your will and your pace. If you ever feel like it, there are enough short term courses at good universities or even on line.
    Regards,
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  11. #11
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 2.

    He was by now firmly embedded in his own private world. Sure, he left the house and went three times a week to the gym to both attain a physical kind of exhaustive peace and to shop. But once back in his domestic solitude he could reflect; a practice so difficult to attain in practical terms these days.

    He knew that no writer or artist ever sees things as they really are. They look back on the ages entirely through the medium of art, and art has never told the truth.
    This in itself led him to being tormented by ideas struggling for outward form and realisation. Luckily, he was not barred up from increase of knowledge, or deprived on the odd occasion of the exercise of profitable speech.

    The question arose then, “What does one draw on in writing?”

    One could for example, fancy an intense personality being created out of sin; such that even The Fallen Angel himself would be a fascinating contradiction for any writer.

    Then there was of course the role played by egotism in literature; the lure in the letters of personalities so different as Cicero and Balzac, Flaubert and Berlioz, Byron and Madame de Sévigné.

    As a case in point, humanity had always loved Rousseau for having confessed his sins, not to a priest, but to the world. The opinions, the character, the achievements of the man, mattered little. He may have been a sceptic, or a saint, but when he told his own secrets, he could always charm.

    At the other extreme, was the mode of thought that Cardinal Newman represented; as a troubled soul who sought to solve intellectual problems by a denial of the supremacy of the intellect.

    Finally, he thought of Robert Browning whose work had been marred by struggle, and effort, and who seemed to have passed not from emotion to form, but from thought to chaos.

    Mind you, he considered that to be fair, it was not thought that fascinated Browning, but rather the processes by which thought moved. The method by which the fool arrives at his folly was as dear to him as the ultimate wisdom of the wise. So much, indeed, did the subtle mechanism of mind fascinate him that he seemed to despise language, or looked upon it as an incomplete instrument of expression.

  12. #12
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    You know I owe you an apology. I was so engrossed about the theme of your story, that I quite overlooked the fact that this is a fiction about someone that is writing about the art of writing a fiction.

    I´m curious about the sequel of the story.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  13. #13
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    No apology necessary buddy.

    I invariably had to go back to review what tenses I was in, was I expressing my views, or was I using a story format to express my own views!!!

    The sequel might have to wait a bit, as my mind and inclinations led me onto a new theme.

    Take care
    M.

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