Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cooking the books

Graham Greene, in the foreword to The Comedians, argues against the notion that all fiction is essentially autobiographical:
‘I’ is not the only imaginary character: none of the others, from such minor players as the British chargé to the principals, has ever existed. A physical trait taken here, a habit of speech, an anecdote – they are boiled up in the kitchen of the unconscious and emerge unrecognizable even to the cook in most cases.
It’s the “unrecognizable even to the cook” bit I like, although whether Greene was tacitly acknowledging the postmodern concept that the author should not be privileged over the reader, or just affecting a sort of gentleman amateurism about the whole process of writing, I’m not sure.

9 comments:

Nick Pegg said...

Just a few days ago I watched a (superb) 1969 Alan Whicker documentary in which he visits Papa Doc's Haiti. Unsurprisingly The Comedians comes up, and Whicker even interviews a chap who is presented as (and who presents himself as being rather indignant to have found himself) the model for the character of Petit Pierre. One suspects that the Whicker show was joining the dots a little too simplistically, but one also suspects that Mr Greene's wonderfully written foreword might be guilty of just a dash of disingenuousness. But anyway, it's an absolutely superb novel. That's not in any doubt.

Dave said...

I realise the word 'postmodern' probably appears here almost daily, along with discussions about Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, but I must admit it's an odd coincidence the word being on my blog simultaneously - we being from two different worlds, as it were.

Annie said...

Thank you, I have reader's block and had forgotten all about Graham Greene. Must read everything he's ever written.I don't know why I love his writing when he's so religious, it's a mystery.

Robert Swipe said...

...Perhaps G.G. just had a very short sighted cook, Tim...

(Well, you can't get the help these days, can you?)

xxx
Bob

The militant working boy said...

I have found that when I cook something (pickled onions, for example), the end result tastes very different from the individual ingredients I put into said dish. Whether this is good or bad, I'm not entirely sure, but it does not keep me from prattling off the recipe just so I look like I know what I'm talking about.

Tim Footman said...

True, Nick. Although I do think it owes more than a little to Waugh (esp Black Mischief, Scoop, The Loved One).

We're all part of blogworld, Dave. Which is a bit of a postmodern concept in its own way...

The religion doesn’t necessarily get in the way, Annie: there’s a difference between writing *about* religion and writing a *religious* book per se.

If Greene didn’t have a short-sighted cook, Bob, he would probably have invented one. With a nasty skin condition. And a mad wife. And a dislike of Jesuits.

But that’s the whole point of cooking, MWB. If it just tastes like all the individual ingredients in the same bowl, it’s nothing more than a salad.

blackwatertown said...

It strikes when you least expect it. You just turn away for a moment to get another beer and change the music. Next thing you know, you've burnt the rice krispies. Or caramelised, as I tell the kids.
I fear they're no longer fooled.

The militant working boy said...

If I made a lemon meringue pie with lime, then told my diners that it was lemon does that mean that I can't tell the difference or that I want to trick the people I'm feeding into thinking that I really know what I'm giving them to eat?

Tim Footman said...

I bet Heston Blumenthal could pull that one off, BWT.

You should come to Thailand, MWB. Lemons don’t grow here, so they just call those little green citrus things lemons instead.