Thursday, 13 October 2016


I have respect for any artist who wants to drag art closer to reality, and whose inspiration is the wealth of the external universe.
  There are, after all, only three disciplines to which human beings can go for help in understanding their own predicaments: to art, to science and to religion.  There is so much to know, and we have such short lives in order to learn, that I cannot understand any writer who, at some level, does not value curiosity over opinion, nor seek enlightenment over self-expression.  What else will persuade the sated consumers that fiction can offer them something which the melodrama of football or the lassitude of magazines cannot?
  It is precisely because there are so many stories being told that audiences need to be refreshed.  Why fabulate?  Because if we do not, everyone else will.  We must fabulate because we all, as spectators, need to be reminded that the lowest levels of fabulation, as much as in half-baked novels as on half-baked television, do not tell us very much about reality, or about ourselves.
  Bad and conventional story-telling serves only to dull us. Such story-telling reduces the world.  How much more desperately, then, we need our sense of wonder restored.
  And let me be clear: not only do I look to leave the theatre or the television set knowing more, but most especially I hope to know more about now.  A lifetime's experience of story-telling has convinced me that nothing is harder in the arts than to be contemporary.  It may be true that we are breeding generations who will prefer to watch the security cameras in department stores rather than go to the Royal Shakespeare Company.  But it is interesting to note that, in television, the fly-on-the-wall documentary which three years ago was all the rage is now more or less extinct, while Eastenders and Casualty ride on regardless.  The makers of these rightly admired and formidable programs know something which the low-level documentarists did not: that the editing and organisation of reality is a genuine skill. 
  In response to the ubiquity of the real, we need not to abandon fiction, but, on the contrary, to make that fiction more original, more distinctive.  The enemy of art is not reality, but formula.

Interview published in The Sydney Morning Herald [18 October 2004]

Click HERE to read an interview with UK playwright DAVID HARE about his controversial 2015 memoir The Blue Touch Paper posted in the online archive of The Telegraph.

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WRITERS ON WRITING #58: Bret Easton Ellis 

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