Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

re-writing history November 20, 2012

Filed under: OUTLANDERishness,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:39 pm
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I’m just about to start George Orwell’s 1984 with my English 12s.  One of the themes to explore is how history is manipulated to serve the present.

Classic example from this year: The Conservative government did that with their celebrations commemorating the War of 1812 “Yay! We Canadians beat the Americans!”.  Of course, the Americans say “Yay! We beat the British!”

Diana Gabaldon asserts that this propensity is not the fault of the historians…

              “No, the fault lies with the artists,” Claire went on.  “The writers, the singers, the tellers of tales.  It’s them that take the past and re-create it to their liking.  Them that could take a fool and give you back a hero, take a sot and make him a king.”

                “Are they all liars, then?” Roger asked. 

                “Liars?” she asked, “or sorcerers?  Do they see the bones in the dust of the earth, see the essence of a thing that was, and clothe it in new flesh, so the plodding beast re-emerges as a fabulous monster?”

(Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, p. 814)

Politicians do it.  Writers do it as they re-imagine historical experience from the perspectives of their characters.  Artists do it when they clean up their subjects (

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Day 20 NaNoWriMo: 0   (Total November: 32054)

 

writing struggles August 24, 2011

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

— George Orwell

I kind of feel sorry for George when I read this.  Perhaps it was the subject matter he chose?  Or the onerous nature of writing by hand or typing on an old typewriter?

Personally, I don’t feel like I am compelled to write by any demons.  I feel like I’m invited to enter a new world, that comes into being as I step through.  For me, writing is kind of like the scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry finds himself in the train station. His awareness of need calls things  into being.  That concept  is a wonderful metaphor for the writing process.

I don’t find writing to be horrible at all, and most certainly not an exhausting struggle.  It’s more like an invigorating adventure, where surprise waits around every corner.

I can see how writing Orwellian books would be completely soul destroying though.  Living in the head of  1984’s protagonist, Winston, for the time needed to craft that novel would be enough to suck the life right out of you.  Fatalistic visions of a horrible future don’t make for a positive outlook.  I hope George had some antidepressants.  It’s always better to be doing a task you enjoy.

 

 
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