Daily Archives: April 7, 2011

Uplifting Quotes for the Uninspired Historian #9

Not a historian this time but one of my favourite fiction writers, and not so much uplifting as interesting.  It’s the late Carol Shields from a short story I read last night called Collision. She’s talking about biography, not as a genre or literary construct, but as the live experience that we all accumulate around ourselves just through the act of being and living:

The only law of biography is that everything, every particle, must be saved.  The earth is alight with it, awash with it, scoured by it, made clumsy and burnished by its steady accretion… That’s the worst of it: there’s nothing selective about biography’s raw data, no sorting machine, no briny episodes underlined in yellow pencil or provided with bristling asterisks- it’s all here, the sweepings and the leavings, the most trivial personal events encoded with history.  Biography- it sniffs it out, snorts it up… (p. 315)

…Written biography, that’s another matter, quite another matter! Memoirs, journals, diaries. Works of the biog-imagination are as biodegradable as orange peels.  Out they go. Pssst- they blast themselves to vapor, cleaner and blonder than the steam from a spotless kettle.  Nothing sticks but the impulse to get it down. (p.316)

From ‘Collision’, Carol Shields The Collected Stories