John Silliman Dodge

Fiction or Autobiography?

I just finished reading "Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs" by one of my favorite authors, Wallace Stegner. In an essay called "The Law of Nature and the Dream of Man" Wallace talks about how fiction is routinely assumed by readers to be thinly disguised autobiography. Let me paraphrase:

"My fictions are just that, inventions. They're not autobiography, not meant to be taken literally, as if Wallace Stegner is speaking through his characters from behind a mask. Writers are all practiced shape-shifters, ventriloquists; we can assume forms and speak in voices not our own. We all have the capacity to make ourselves at home in other skins."

Exactly. For some reason songwriters are especially prone to the assumption that every lyric is ME talking about ME and MY situation. Which, if you think about it, is pretty darned restrictive.

I try to write songs the way authors write short stories: invent characters, put them into situations, then watch what happens. I pull material from everywhere, my own life included, but decidedly Everywhere with the Big E. -JD

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