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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

By myself. By John von Daler

                      The first part of the book was okay. He didn't think there were going to be any problems. He just told it the way it had happened.



Of course he was familiar with Roth's contortion act with Zuckermann, so he decided not to try to cover his tracks, but in fact to make his trail available and visible to everyone.
                The trail in itself had not presented him with problems. It was more his own way of hiking along on it that seemed difficult. After all, most of the things he remembered had happened long ago. The all-powerful author he had come to be had probably never ever been a child, but had arisen fully grown from the seat at his computer. So what were the child and the man in the book supposed to be like? What had he done, where had he been, what had he looked like as his life happened?
                As an author he was going to have to imagine himself from the outside just as he had imagined all the other characters. But he was the only person he had never ever seen from without.
                So every day at the computer he made up himself. First as a child and later as a man.  Anyone with an astute and analytic perception who saw him at that time might have noticed the change in his real features, especially around the eyes. Where he once had been sure of his own image, his face now began to take on the uncertainty that you often can find in an actor between roles: a kind of wandering, searching hesitancy that causes incredulity in the observer. Is this person really who he claims to be? they might have asked.
                So on the 78th page of the book this uncertain man wrote:
You could see the ancestors in him in the same way that you months and years later could see what he had eaten. Everything was assimilated, digested, turned into flesh and bone. So there was an aquiline nose from an old lawyer in Vienna, blue-green eyes from some soldiers in Alsace, the puffy cheeks of a hell-and-brimstone preacher from Ohio, the thin-lipped mouth of some thick-skinned settlers from the southwest, the ears of an unrecorded night adventurer in Scotland 1599, and the smile of an Austrian accountant in Oklahoma.
                Having written the passage he surprised himself by sighing, relieved as he now was to know that this person was not him at all. He could recognize nothing of himself in all those details. So it was that his book turned completely into a work of fiction.
                He got up from his computer to look in the mirror. He saw some of the scarlet confidence return into the more pale portions of his face. His blood throbbed lustily under the skin. Perhaps that blood was invigorated by the knowledge that he had not as yet stabbed himself with his own pen.

What is
a fictional self-portrait?
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