Sunday Book-Thought 27

Using tanned skins in place of a sand-beach, a segull-feather for my tool, and a mixture of wine, blood, and squid-ink for a medium, I developed a kind of coded markings to record the utterance of mind and heart. By drawing out these chains of symbols I could so preserve and display my tale, it was unnecessary to remember it. I could therefore compose more and faster; I came largely to exchange song for written speech, and when the gods vouchsafed me a further great idea, that of launching my productions worldward in the empty amphorae, they loosed from my damnèd soul a Deucalion-flood of literature. For eight jugsworth of years thereafter, saving the spells of inclement weather aforementioned, I gloried in my isolation and seeded the waters with its get, what I came to call fiction. That is, I found that by pretending that things had happened which in fact had not, and that people existed who didn’t, I could achieve a lovely truth which actuality obscures – especially when I learned to abandon myth and pattern my fabrications on actual people and events: Menelaus, Helen, the Trojan War. It was as if there were this minstrel and this milkmaid, et cetera; one could I believe draw a whole philosophy from that as if.
John Barth

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