Here’s an interesting combination: Any Bloom is both a novelist and a psychotherapist. Better yet, she thinks the two disciplines are related.
I confess I haven’t read any of her books, but my contemplation of the quote I am about to give you does tempt me to take some of my Christmas money and download a kindle version of A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, or Love Invents Us. Intriguing titles.
But here is the profundity I want to share with you this morning, from psychotherapist Bloom:
psychotherapy and writing are both about using small details to find out what’s going on as opposed to what people say is going on.
I agree. And I find that the best books and stories – the ones that arrest me, captivate me and bring me back again and again – are those who let me figure it out and yet leave me with no doubt about “what was really going on.”
In real life we rarely get the truth straight on. Everybody has an angle, an interest to protect. Nobody sees the whole picture. We’ve got to sort it out for ourselves. Moreover, we have our own sets of filters that color and limit everything we see and hear for what we believe is our own protection. That’s life and that aspect of living has to be amplified in a therapeutic setting where much hangs in the balances and all effort is turned to finding out what is really going on.
I guess when fiction does this –lets us figure it out for ourselves, based on little clues – little slips of the tongue or small gestures that betray a real emotion, or recurring patterns that point in directions other than those that the characters directly recommend – it makes the experience seem all the more real and all the more rewarding and engaging and convincing.
The best example of this that I can think of right off of the bat this morning is Alice Munro’s wonderful story “Friend of My Youth.” I read this story in one of the literary magazines – either The Atlantic or The New Yorker – years ago. I stumbled on to it. I’d never heard of Alice Munro before then although she was by then already well established.
But the story had a great impact on me. When I finished it – and not before – I was left with the certainty that I knew exactly what was going on it the lives of the characters, even though the characters – some of them, anyway – had not figured it out. I don’t know if I have ever had the same experience to that degree with any other piece of fiction. This story is a masterwork. You’ll enjoy it and learn something about what good fiction should be.