Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Am I creating another self when I write memoir?

I opened the I Ching at random this morning and came up with #38, K’uei / Opposition. The commentary says it is common for two opposites to exist together, needing to find relationship. I realize an opposition is being set up just in the act of writing a memoir: my inner writer will be observing everything I do closely and recording what she finds valuable. I’m reminded of a review of Journey into the Dark: The Tunnel by William Gass that appeared in The New York Times Book Review:

Writers double themselves all the time in their fictions, of course. That’s one of the reasons for writing them: to clone yourself and set yourself out on a different path, or to reconfigure yourself as a marginal observer of your own childhood, as Lawrence does with Rupert Birkin in Women in Love, and as Woolf does with Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse; or to split yourself in two and reimagine one side of yourself through the eyes of the other, as Joyce does in Ulysses, and as Nabokov does in Pale Fire.

….The reason for this is that making copies of ourselves and setting them in motion in imaginary space is built in to the way minds work. We do it all the time—when we plan for a future event, when we relive the past, when we daydream. (July 13, 1995)

I like the idea that I’m daydreaming myself into existence, that day and night dreams, which can be in opposition, work together to make a creative entity. I’m actually making a fiction in my memoir, just as we all are fictions, walking around. I can’t possibly capture my whole life in these pages, so in making the choices I do and recording them, I’m altering my experience, describing a fictional “I,” transforming my life and my experiences. They are both mine and not mine.

In fact, the act of writing these things and reflecting back on them alters that period, transforms it, just as the moon’s reflection changes what it touches, causing us to see a landscape differently at night than in the daytime, under the sun’s glare. The moon softens surfaces, embraces them. The sun brings out an object’s hard edges and distances us from it. It makes an object seem farther away than the moon’s light does.

In a way, I’m creating a character named Lily, just as other writers recreate themselves when writing memoir. By organizing our pasts as we do, we eliminate a good deal, including only what fits the page limitation and what we’re willing to reveal. Of course, this is how we give shape to a self, anyway, by uncovering/discovering it, bit by bit. All of our personality doesn’t show at any one time. Maybe over a long period, the different parts of ourselves will come forward and be exposed. But we are always selecting, choosing. When I had my sessions with A., my therapist/analyst, there were many dreams and experiences she never knew about, yet that didn’t make our work any less effective.

It’s similar to what happens when we photograph someone. So much is left out, and we end up with an idealized (or sometimes extremely revealing) image. If we took a dozen photographs of the person, while there would be a recognizable self in each picture, what’s captured in celluloid changes. Usually, we only see a posed image, not a full-blown experience of another caught in natural motion. I suppose it’s why many people prefer to choose a photograph of themselves that projects their best features, leaving the viewer with a romanticized picture of someone.

I think Proust was pointing to a similar phenomenon when he claimed that the narrative “I” is much different from the writer’s self/I. The writer is creating another fictional self to speak through, and it isn’t exactly the same as the writer’s self. I believe this happens in all writers.

It’s very useful to be reading Proust at the moment. I’m interested in his ideas about memory, how we’re so caught up in the moment that it’s difficult to understand our experiences. But by revisiting them in memory, we make sense of our lives. I feel that’s what I’m doing here, trying to sort through inner and outer experiences, to understand them, to uncover their meaning.

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2 Comments

  1. Graham MacKenzie

    Writing memoir is also interesting because it sets up an interaction between ‘I’ and ‘me’, the subject looking at itself as an object. Similarly when reading memoir we access the interplay between she and her. I wish I could take your memoir course, Lily. Please let me know if it runs online and is open to international students.

    • I love these insights, Graham. Re the class, we have only three meetings left. It was the first time I’ve taught it via Zoom and I’m surprised at how well it’s turning out. I’ve discovered that the Fromm Institute’s older students love this kind of workshop because they have an instant audience for their drafts (small groups) as well as my comments. Sharing their incredible stories is their reward. I don’t know if Fromm will continue to offer online classes, though I think they’ve, overall, been successful. Still, most students are hungry for the in-person contact, so as soon as herd immunity kicks in, I’m sure we’ll all be back in the physical classroom. This is a roundabout way of saying that if I were hired to teach again in the fall, it probably will be online, and, yes, you could participate. I always teach the 1 PM segment, so you could catch it around 9 PM your time. Is all well with you otherwise? I can’t help thinking of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe who had so many children she didn’t know what to do when I hear how many bambinos you have now!

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