Persona Fiction or Not…

charlie

Frank Miller’s Charlie Brown

I call them persona art. You enter an already established persona, and work from their viewpoint. I think the formula is PERSONA + WRITER = A THIRD THING. You aren’t trying to write of the celebrity/persona/entity, but rather through it.

I am recalling a Sontag quote about not writing to find the self, but to escape the self.

Sometimes maybe the persona visits the narrator, like in Dan Chaon’s smart text, “Raymond Carver.”

I am wondering if you have a favorite persona piece (For me, Michael Martone writing through Dan Quayle)? Martone uses persona to actually bend the wirings of truth/untruth. Or, as he says…

“I want to think of what I do as writing and let the speciation to others. Many artists draw, use watercolor, paint in oils, sculpt, construct, assemble, paste. They mix their media but it is all seen as art, and issues of its fact or fiction seem beside the point to me. Well at least beside the point when the thing is in the making. I am in the fabrication business and there are different gradients on that scale of fiction and non-, I suppose, but none I worry about as I am doing them. I have a fiction in the voice of Dan Quayle who is writing an essay; a book about Michael Martone written by Michael Martone in the voice and form of his, Michael Martone’s, biographer; I have an essay in the voice of Michael Martone on the fictional creation of a character named Bobby Knight. To me the differences are in the details at a microscopic scale, not at the much larger one of genre.”

(Full wicked interview here)

How did I head down this treacherous path?

Do you write persona? Why, or why not? Do so. Now.

12 thoughts on “Persona Fiction or Not…

  1. I like Jim Shepard’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” story.

    Another question is: If you write through the personae of fictional entities (I do on occasion), how do you convince people it’s not fan fiction? I’m doing a series about cartoon characters. I’ve got a story about a lesbian affair between an iconic brunette and blond pair that I thought would never get taken seriously, but it was actually accepted by a fairly reputable journal. I couldn’t believe it.

    • Shoot me an e-mail if you really want it. (The e-mail address I give, though ridiculous, is real.)

      I’m jealous of your Charlie Brown story.

      Also, Kevin Wilson recently did a Buck Rogers story that was pretty good.

  2. And there’s Barthelme’s Snow White.

    I also love the many things that John Haskell does with famous personas like Jackson Pollock, Orson Welles, Glenn Gould, and Joan of Arc in I Am Not Jackson Pollock. Oh and the thing he does there with Hitchcock’s Psycho is brilliant too.

  3. I just remembered another Michael Martone story:
    “A Perimenopausal Jacqueline Kennedy, Two Years After the Assassination, Aboard the M/Y Christina, Off Eubeoa, Bound for the Island of Alonnisos, Devastated by a Recent Earthquake, Drinks Her Fourth Bloody Mary with Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.”

  4. A.M. Homes has a great story about Nancy Reagan. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s the last story in Things You Should Know.

  5. “A Perimenopausal Jacqueline Kennedy, Two Years After the Assassination, Aboard the M/Y Christina, Off Eubeoa, Bound for the Island of Alonnisos, Devastated by a Recent Earthquake, Drinks Her Fourth Bloody Mary with Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.”

    Possibly one of the best titles I have read in my life.

  6. I love the way that “persona art” can uncover a layer of depth that was maybe always there, that you maybe never felt because the original angle demanded that that layer be ignored. I’m thinking of Dan Walsh’s webcomic “Garfield Minus Garfield”– Jon Arbuckle’s crushing desparation, which comes through so powerfully in Walsh’s version, was arguably ever-present in Jim Davis’ original.
    Have you ever read Karel Capek’s “Apocryphal Tales”? Fantastic stuff. He reimagines all kinds of historical/mythic figures: Prometheus, Archimedes, Pilate, Lazarus, Lot.

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