Monday, February 10, 2014

the last book I ever read (Richard Ford's The Sportswriter, excerpt three)

from The Sportswriter by Richard Ford:

I do not think, in any event, it’s a good idea to want to know what people are thinking (that would disqualify you as a writer right there, since what else is literature but somebody telling us what somebody else is thinking). For my money there are at least a hundred good reasons not to want to know such things. People never tell the truth anyway. And most people’s minds, like mine, never contain much worth reporting, in which case they just make something up that’s patently ridiculous instead of saying the truth—namely, I was thinking nothing. The other side, of course, is that you will run the risk of being told the very truth of what someone is thinking, which can turn out to be something you don’t want to hear, or that makes you mad, and ought to be kept private anyway. I remember when I was a boy in Mississippi, maybe fifteen years old—just before I left for Lonesome Pines—a friend of mine got killed in a hunting accident. The very night after, Charlieboy Neblett and I (he was one of my few friends in Biloxi) sat out in Charlieboy’s car drinking beer and complaining about our having thought, then forgiving each other for thinking, that we were glad Teddy Twiford got killed. If Teddy’s mother had come by just then and asked us what we were thinking, she would’ve been flabbergasted to find out what lousy friends of Teddy’s we were. Though in fact we weren’t lousy friends at all. Things just come into your mind on their own and aren’t your fault. So I learned this all those years ago—that you didn’t need to be held responsible for what you think, and that by and large you don’t have any business knowing what other people think. Full disclosure never does anybody any favors, and in any event there are few enough people in the world who are sufficiently within themselves to make such disclosure pretty unreliable right from the start. All added to the fact that this constitutes intrusion where you least need to be intruded upon, and where telling can actually do harm to everyone involved.

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