Morrison on Writing & The Interior Life

To follow is a passage from Toni Morrison’s “The Site of Memory” in her book of selected nonfiction, What Moves At The Margin.

If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.  I suppose I could dispense with the last four if I were not so deadly serious about fidelity to the milieu out of which I write and in which my ancestors actually lived.  Infidelity to that milieu–the absence of the interior life, the deliberate excising of it from the records that the slaves themselves told–is precisely the problem in the discourse that proceeded without us.  How I gain access to that interior life is what drives me and is the part of this talk which both distinguishes my fiction from autobiographical strategies and which also embraces certain autobiographical strategies.  It’s a kind of literary archaeology: on the basis of some information and a little bit of guesswork you journey to a site to see what remains were left behind and to reconstruct the world that these remains imply.  What makes it fiction is the nature of the imaginative act: my reliance on the image–on the remains–in addition to recollection, to yield up a kind of a truth.  By “image,” of course, I don’t mean “symbol”; I simply mean “picture” and the feelings that accompany the picture.

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