“Some cynics would deny the existence of any real distinction between fiction and reporting. It doesn’t seem like that if you have to do it, though, and I have sometimes thought that all writers of fiction should be required by law to go out and do a bit of reporting from time to time, just to remind them how different the real world in front of their eyes is from the invented world behind them. To have a fiction in mind – whether you have laboriously created it or whether it has seemed to suggest itself – is already to have made something tractable, already to have isolated some specific characters and events, to have seen some way in which they fit together, some way in which it can all be suggested in words. Out there in the world it’s very different. Nothing, for a start, is in words – nothing is the right shape to be put into words. Nothing has its cause or its result written upon it. Even when you find witnesses who supply you with a testimony already in verbal form, their impressions of the same thing and recollections of the same event are dismayingly varied. And there’s so much of everything! All of it inextricably tangled together.


“To describe is to select – and to select only a microscopic sample from this overwhelming profusion. How even, in the first place, to select a principle of selection – how to decide on a particular subject? One way is to choose aspects of the world that seem to stand out from the rest because they are untypical or extraordinary – the heroic, the despicable, the grandiose, the grotesque, the exotic, the extreme. It is difficult to describe such things and to convey some impression of them to a reader, precisely because they are foreign to our normal experience.”


– Michael Frayn, Travels with a Typewriter, 2009


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