DRMacIver's Notebook

From a Certain Point of View

From a Certain Point of View

From Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, page 480:

"Artists are tricky fellows, sir, forever reshaping the world according to some design of their own," said Strange. "Indeed they are not unlike magicians in that."

A thing I often think about is the blurry line between true and useful, communication and performance.

In the context of the story, this is about visual art, but the same happens with the written or spoken word: When we attempt to convey facts, we end up summarising, simplifying, focusing on what we think is important about it, and often when we do this we end up saying things that are not, in the strictest sense, true.

(In context, Norrell is complaining about a painting that has a mirror where there is none).

Sometimes this is because we elide crucial details. Sometimes it's a lie-to-children. Sometimes it's to give the story the true aesthetic without the elaborate scaffolding needed to convey that aesthetic accurately (the mirror). Sometimes, of course, it's just a lie.

I think we end up doing this more than we think, because memory is more fallible than we like to treat it as, and we tend to think more in terms of aesthetic and narrative than detailed recollection of facts. In this sense we are all artists.