How could one navigate in an unnarrated world?

One could learn about life from literature–one could learn to spot a confidence man–but only if one woke up from the smug, dreamlike superiority of the reader, which blinded one to the actual slippery manifestations of vice and dishonesty in the shadowy world of reality. In the novel, at least in the reassuring nineteeth-century novel, one was always privy to everyone’s well-lit motives and alerted to even the first sign of corruption. But in life–how could one navigate in an unnarrated world? Of course I was always narrating my life to myself (idea for novel), but unfortunately I had no access to the private thoughts of the other characters around me. Even my own mind was too prolific to be comprehensible. It was certainly true that I was fashioning the book of my life at all times, trying out sentences, sketching out plot lines, hoarding impressions, restaging the scenes I’d just live through. I’d already written and typed two novels in boarding school, one about me and the other about my mother or some more driven version of my mother to whom I attributed my own sexual obsessions. At every moment I convinced myself that I was gathering material for the novel of my life–all experienced from the philosophical distance of the author. Even these humiliating occasions when I was robbed could be used as material. Life was a field trip. My writing would turn all this evil into flowers.

– Edmund White,  My Hustlers


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