9. To what extent is We Rose Up Slowly autobiographical?

  • Hmmm. Is this a question about narrative theory or whether Jon has cycled into the sea or chopped off anyone’s finger with a miniature guillotine?
  • These stories are not autobiographical. This is fiction. Writer’s lie. It’s a mistake to privilege the author or idealise their role and intentions too much. The text is all. The reader is everything.
  • Stories do not reflect reality - they create their own reality from: 
    • everything the author has collected from their life (including false memories and outright lies) & selected to be transformed by language for presentation in a story
    • everything the reader has collected from their life (including core assumptions and prejudices) used to find meaning in the text
  • There are, however, aspects of the writer’s personality and experience built, baked or bleeding into their narrator and characters. 
  • The play and leakage between the persona of the author, the narrator and characters is fascinating.
  • Influences, the tone and emotion of experiences and incidents from the author’s life do permeate We Rose Up Slowly but it would be a mistake to conflate Jon Gresham and any narrator or character in We Rose Up Slowly too closely.
  • Events and episodes plucked from Jon Gresham's life include:
    • The experience of unrequited love (We Rose Up Slowly, A Long Bicycle Ride into the Sea, Other People's Cats).
      Loving someone more than they love you. On reflection and in time you realise it was for the best you never ended up together.
    • Not knowing WTF I’m doing with my life (Rashid at the Sail).
      On reflection and in time you realise that’s part of the the anxiety and exhilaration of being alive.
    • Adoption issues (Death of a Clown, A Girl and a Guy in a Kijang in Kemang)
      Imagined accounts of finally meeting your natural father or mother - [Spoiler Alert *****] resulting in thoughts of violent murder and an accidental tryst in the back of a Kijang.
    • Privilege (The Finger)
    • Casual racism (Idiot and Dog).
      On reflection and in time hopefully you realise, and reflect on your cognitive dissonance, prejudice and privilege.
  • The important question about these stories is not are they autobiographical - because this privileges the author too much.

    Isn’t it more important to ask: who is the reader?

    And what does this text mean to them?

    And how does this book change the answer to the question the reader always asks, when he/she puts down this book:

                                                 what am I going to do next?

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