Tag Archives: reality

Expectations dissolved

“It hadn’t taken them many minutes, after all, to put down on the table, like the cards of a pack, those that constituted their respective hands; only what came out was that the pack was unfortunately not perfect- -that the past, invoked, invited, encouraged, could give them, naturally, no more than it had.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999).

Notes: Expectations vs. reality, perspective differences, disappointment

 

Whose Lying?

In point of fact what is interesting about people in good society- and M. Bourget rareiy moves  out of the Fauboug St. Germain, except to come to London, is the mask that each one of them wears, not the reality that lies behind the mask. It is a humiliating confession, but we are all made of the same stuff.

Wilde, Oscar.  “The Decay of Lying.” Intentions.  New York: Brentano’s, 1905.  14-15. Print.

Notes: people do not present their true self, no one is exception to this rule. Sarcasm near the end?

Art versus reality

“Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place. As for the infinite variety of Nature, that is a pure myth. It is not to be found in Nature herself. It resides in the imagination, or fancy, or cultivated blindness of the man who looks at her.” (p. 4)

– Wilde, Oscar. The Decay of Lying. New York: Brentano’s, 1905.

Notes: imagination over reality, fiction as art, why “cultivated blindness”?

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“Art, breaking from the prison-house of realism, will run to greet him, and will kiss his false, beautiful lips, knowing that he alone is in possession of the great secret of all her manifestations, the secret that Truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style; while Life — poor, probably, uninteresting human life — tired of repeating herself for the benefit of Mr. Herbert Spenser, scientific historians, and compilers of statistics in general, will follow meekly after him, and try to reproduce, in her own simple and untutored way, some of the marvels of which he talks.” (p. 29)

– On the “cultured liar”, Wilde, The Decay of Lying

Notes:  life imitating art, union of art and lying, reality as a prison

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“The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. When it ceases to compete as the canvas of the painter competes, it will have arrived at a very strange pass.” (p. 64)

– James, Henry. The Art of Fiction. Upham, Crupples. 1885.

Notes: competition, novel versus life, representation versus competition

Does the novel strive to be life-like, or does it strive to be better than reality?

Fatal to the Imagination

“Many a young man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which, if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by the imitation of the best models, might grow into something really great and wonderful. But, as a rule, he comes to nothing. He either falls into careless habits of accuracy, or takes to frequenting the society of the aged and the well-informed. Both things are equally fatal to his imagination, as indeed they would be fatal to the imagination of anybody, and in a short time he develops a morbid and unhealthy faculty of truth-telling, begins to verify all statements made in his presence, has no hesitation contradicting people who are much younger than himself, and often ends by writing novels which are so like life that no one can possibly believe in their probability. ”

-Wilde, Oscar. The Decay of Lying. New York: Bertano’s, 1905. 9-10. Web. <http://archive.org/details/partialportraits00jameiala>.

Notes: Extreme truth, full circle, oh the irony.

“It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a ‘make-believe’ (for what else is a ‘story’?) shall be in some degree apologetic -shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to represent life. This, of course, any sensible, wide-awake story declines to do, for it quickly perceives that the tolerance granted to it on such a condition is only an attempt to stifle it disguised in the form of generosity.”

-James, Henry. Major Stories and Essays. New York: Library of America College Edition, 1999. 573. Print.

Notes: Book snobs, destruction of fiction, real literature, real life.