Mark Twain said of Rudyard Kipling, whom he admired, “I am not acquainted with my own books, but I know Kipling’s books.” (Hello Goodbye Hello, by Craig Brown, excerpted in The Week, 11/30/12 pg. 41). His remark surprised me the moment I read it. Surely this was excessive praise. How could Twain know Kipling’s work better than his own?
Yet as I thought about it, the comment rang true. Writers are like impatient lovers. They prod, coax and tease secrets from their characters until nothing is left to reveal. Then they let them go with a grunt: Oh, that’s what I meant. That’s what I was thinking.”
As no writer can plumb another’s characters in the same way, these fictions beguile us. How could Lear be so blind about the avarice of his daughters? Why is Scarlett so late to discover Rhett Butter’s charm? Why do Vladimir and Estragon wait endlessly for Gadot and who is Gadot? Lacking the ability to shape their motives, these wraiths of another’s mind continue to haunt us.
I remember Tom Sawyer well. But the names of my characters from Heart Land? I can’t remember. I invented and was done with them so long ago.
(Courtesy of Yahoo.com)