Monday, August 11, 2008

Genrefication, or I'll do what I want, thanks

I had originally intended to write this post on the absurdity of genre in fiction (including memoirs, but that's a subject for another day), the base meaninglessness of categorizing imaginary things and, by extension, imagination. But instead I'm going to tell you how Borges saved my creative soul. It was his Universal History of Iniquity, translated in the Collected Fictions by Andrew Hurley, read now over a decade ago, that did it. You see, Borges made up about half of the footnotes attached to those little biographies of villainous men and women. Just made 'em up. For fun. The people are real, the histories he recounts are mostly reliable, but the footnotes? Fab ree kate id. It was only when I found this out that I truly began to understand the power and the freedom of fiction. To learn that a writer of Borges stature could grant himself the pleasure of pure factual irresponsibility stripped away all the gravitas from the act of writing for me. Borges wrote his fiction for himself and no one else. Even now the memory of that revelation sparks my fire and makes me smile.

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