The Truth of the Tale

Lately I’ve been thinking about stories. What they mean, what we get out of them, how we tell them. And what Keats wrote: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. 

Is it? 

I think we write about our experiences, so that we can wrestle some sense into them. We write about our struggles, prosaic or horrific. And we write about ourselves and our choices, perhaps to justify them. What we write needn’t be accurate. It needn’t even be true. 

I remember reading Lolita, repulsed and attracted almost in equal measure by Humbert’s story and Nabokov’s telling of it. It was beautiful, and it was horrifying, and if it were true it still wouldn’t detract from the elegance of the story. 

Maybe that’s what we need. To reconstruct the experience into the story, to frame it and pin it up, and make it something beautiful so that it ceases to haunt us — or at least, let it haunt us only aesthetically. Maybe sometimes we need to be beautiful more than we are true, simply so we can continue living as we are. 

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