Make-Believe

I’m mailing it in today. Despite the list of blog posts waiting in my little notebook, I am only making time to do this.

There is simply Too Much Else to do.

My children have the day off today. Which means, of course, that one of them has a friend over, and another is at school for play practice, and the third must needs come with me to Target to do some birthday-present shopping. Besides, it’s a glorious day outside with blue skies and thin clouds, warm air and a high breeze that makes the trees laugh and the leaves fall. So maybe Emma and I will walk the dog, and maybe we’ll make granola in the kitchen that has windows and doors open.

And also, I have to write.

When I do, I will be putting some confidence in the truth of this little paragraph. I rediscovered it in yesterday’s late afternoon, when I pulled from my desk drawer some of the earliest writings I did for this novel. I had lost a vital passage from my electric files, you see, and so I was in pursuit of hard copy.

Happily, I had some.

And, as I’ve said, this, sent to me by my sister Emily in May of 2002. She discovered it in the Wilson Quarterly and she thought it might make some sense to me. It does. It is, in fact, what I’ve always loved about novels, and what made me want to teach people about them, and what made me think I might like to write one.

At any rate, it’s worth thinking about.

Here:

It is the curious identity of books in general that history and philosophy, invaluable though they are, cannot, by their very nature, contain novels; yet novels can contain history and philosophy. We need not quarrel about which genre is superior; all are essential to human striving. But somehow it is enchanting to think that the magic sack of make-believe, if one wills it so, can always be fuller and fatter than anything the historians and philosphers can supply. Make-believe, with its uselessness and triviality, with all its falseness, is nevertheless frequently praised for telling the truth via lies. Such an observation seems plainly not to the point. History seeks truth; philosophy seeks truth. They get at it far better than novels can. Novels are made for another purpose. They are made to allow us to live, for a little time, another life; a life different from the one we were ineluctably born into. Truth, if we can lay our hands on it, may or may not confer freedom. Make-believe always does.

-Cynthia Ozick, The Yale Review, October 2000


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