Time and Fiction

Fiction tells time. It’s all about time and movement. It goes from here to there. Even when here and there are the same place, at the same time, it goes there. Even when it has to go there backwards, or in a circle.  That is its human signature. That is how you can tell that a human had something to do with it. To the tree and the stream in the image below, however, there is no time. Without time, it has no story. Yet it still can be read.


Willow Trees and Water

Reading came hundreds of thousands of years before books. The loss of the ability to read this image is one of the costs of literacy, which is the same as saying it is one of the costs of time.


6 thoughts on “Time and Fiction

  1. Lovely image.
    Why do you say
    “To the tree and the stream in the image below, however, there is no time.” ?
    The tree measures time, does it not? The stream also changes with time, with seasons. Seems to me that time is intrinsic to both trees and water.

    • Hi, I meant that from the point of view of story, story is human, and the time that goes with it. From that point of view, there is no time in either the stream or the tree. If there is story there, it’s more like romance, in the sense of a tapestry, in which the story is ever-present, from its beginning to its end, and the humans that approach it move through it and thus draw a line. This was a very medieval story-telling mode, that gave us tapestries, draws heavily on the icons of the orthodox faith, and is still very common in Germany (for instance). The instances of time you mention are as much instances of growth, which aren’t necessarily the same as time. All that aside, in the moment of water and tree, there is space and presence … equally intriguing ideas! best, Harold

      • You are most right, of course: there is time for trees and streams, as you described. I was trying to nudge the word “time” a little, towards time as narrative. That slight switch allows, I think, a lot of room for clarifying the writing process.

  2. Hello Harold,
    Thanks for expanding, explaining. I had an inkling but was looking for something closer to clarity. I am interested in the tapestry idea, “the story …ever-present, from its beginning to its end”.
    Time as narrative, yes.
    Muley deer have been writing a curvi-linear story through the yard. They re-tell their narrative of hunger every evening: from the south, in the lane, west to the auger, up through the feed yard. Circle back south. Snow cover since mid October, cold.

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