The Truth is, my Son/Daughter, that I’ve always been there.

I know I’m supposed to be offering a critical review of Jim Murdoch’s The Whole Truth. It’s an imperative I have placed upon myself. One thing that strikes me though as I think about how to best go about doing it is the question of:

“whether or not Truth would know what was going to happen since he’d already seen Jonathan’s life from start to finish” (JM)

which arises somewhat unexpectedly from out of the end of The Whole Truth.

That question isor to me goes straight to the heart
of Jim’s account of
the relationship between Truth and Destiny.

I imagine it highly probable that, based on what he had seen happen before, Truth (like his brother Destiny) would be making a lot of educated guesses the next time around; especially if Truth is punting on Jonathan to change the direction of his life.

I can also imagine that Truth would be faced with a serious identity crisis at some point. He might even end up feeling like a father whose son doesn’t need him anymore.

If Jonathan’s father were to feel it was time to leave and then left (for Wales?), would Jonathan notice him gone? From what I have gathered of Jonathan’s childhood I can imagine he would feel a sense of having lost his first ever friend for reasons that were never explained to him. I can also imagine that Jonathan would mix the few details he had up in some kind of attempt at performing his own self-protection.

If I was the personification of Truth in that situation and I was given the opportunity to spend a few days with Jonathan again, I imagine I would tell him that I’d always been there.

For Lady Joanna Payne of Rigby

P.S. I think Truth is a bit of a Teddy Bear actually :)

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About Brad

Braden Karl Frederiksen still has the small wooden treasure chest that his evil Grandmother gave him for his 8th Christmas. He can't recall how old he was when he locked the key inside nor how he locked it in there. He occasionally gives it a rattle and wonders what's making that other sound. View all posts by Brad

4 responses to “The Truth is, my Son/Daughter, that I’ve always been there.

  • Jim Murdoch

    After I finished these novels, Brad, the question I had to face was whether or not I had any right to call myself a novelist. A lot of people have a novel in them but just the one. Several years passed before I got the idea for The More Things Change. It begins much like Living with the Truth: a failed middle-aged writer is standing in a park looking back on his life when he encounters a little man on a park bench who tells him he’s God. Unwilling to believe this the man—who’s called Jim Valentine—heads home to discover that he now has what he thought was the thing missing from his life, a wife. On going back to the park to seek out the old man, Joe Hoover, he finds he’s being given an opportunity to live the life he dreamed about, to write the book, to receive the plaudits and he does all that; the catch is that, as God leaves him to his new life, He also strips him of all his past memories.

    At this point in the book I realised that I was writing another Living with the Truth and stopped. For two years I never looked at it but when I returned to it I did with a completely different voice. We jump twenty years into the future to find Jim sitting on the same park bench where he first met God (although he still has never been able to recall a thing): he’s written the book, had his fifteen minutes of fame and then let everything slip away from him as if something in him was determined to get back to the man we met at the start of the book. When people talk about having the opportunity to live their lives again what they want to do is live them knowing what they know as adults. The bottom line is that were we to live our lives over a second time we’d make all the same mistakes.

    Truth and Destiny don’t appear in this book. Jim is his own destiny. Success for him is failure. Once he has succeeded in ruining his life—his wife and kids all abandon him—then he feels as if he’s arrived at where he was meant to be at that point in his life as miserable as he is. I won’t tell you how the book ends because none of what happens is what it appears to be but one day it’ll get published and I’d like you to read it.

    The problem that Truth and the rest of the Dunameon have is that to a certain extent they seem to be doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result which is one definition of insanity. I don’t believe in the grand plan. I was brought up to believe that humans have free will and I still believe that. I take the there’s-no-one-driving view of life and it’s only a matter of time before the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. For some of us—the lucky few—that’s when we die.

    The danger with Truth—and this happens with Dr Who a lot—is that it’s easy to think of him as human because he wears human form. Because he spends a lot of time around humans—as it the case with the Doctor—there are occasions when he gets to feel what it would be like to be human, as he does at the end of Living with the Truth¬—but he shakes it off and gets on with his job.

    It’s not Jonathan’s father who left for Wales. It was his/my friend Andrew. And, for the record, my dad never left us and he most definitely wore the trousers in our house. Jonathan’s dad is nothing like mine nor was his mother anything like mine.

    Let’s say though that Jonathan was allowed to live his life in full possession not only of how his life had panned out but of the existence of the Dunameon, would he have used that to his advantage? When he’s with Truth how many questions does he ask him about his life? Not many, if any. He isn’t at all curious and once he’s been manoeuvred into meeting Janet and finds himself entertaining the possibility of an alternate future he’s annoyed more than pleased. Anyone else would have been trying to take advantage of the Truth but that’s not Jonathan’s style: he really doesn’t want to know the truth and, certainly as I grow older (and closer to Jonathan’s age), I find I’m becoming less and less interested myself.

    • Brad

      Who was it, Jim, who effectively said that most if not all writers spend their lives writing the same story over and over again? I can’t recall. I can see that happening in my own writing, and it does annoy me to the point that I often doubt my credentials and consider giving it away.
      You’ve spoken about only being able to write about what we know, but then you’ve also said in the interview I referenced in the last post that “basically I place a character in a situation, give him, her or them a problem to deal with and watch what follows naturally.” There’s no guarantee then that you’ll end up writing about what you know until the problem has been followed through to the end with all of ones memories intact.

      • Jim Murdoch

        Apparently Marion Dane Bauer said that she writes the same story over and over again, always about a distance between a parent and a child, Isaac Baschevis Singer said we all write the story of our life over and over again and, similarly, William Faulkner wrote “I’m telling the same story over and over which is myself and the world. That’s all a writer ever does, he tells his own biography in a thousand different terms.” I actually thought it was Kafka who said it but I can’t find any evidence of that. Maybe it was said of him because there are loads of authors who have been accused or recycling the same material over and over again.

        I can definitely see a theme running through all my books, including the kid’s book: the protagonist is always ignorant of the true nature of life and relies on someone in the know to correct their vision of the universe. In H M Mole, the children’s book I wrote when my daughter was born, we have a solitudinous mole who gets taken on an adventure by a worldly-wise mouse, in the first two adult novels it’s a lonely bookseller who gets taken on an adventure by Truth, in The More Things Change it’s a lonely failed writer who gets taken on an adventure by God, in Milligan and Murphy it’s two layabouts who’ve never been outside the borders of their town who get taken on an adventure by some unnamed supernatural entity (who they suspect might be God) and his earthly proxies, in Left we have an emotionally-challenged woman who’s led on (albeit a more cerebral) adventure by actually worldly-wise a sex worker and the book I’m working on just now, which I really don’t want to say too much about, even though there’s only one character in it (so far) I still have the same dynamic in that he ‘talks’ to himself.

        Yes, in one respect we can only write about what we end up knowing but that doesn’t mean we can’t starting off writing about what we want to know. All of my novels have be projects where I’ve set out to discover something about myself. I’ve never known what—otherwise what’s the point?—but by the end of the book I’ve known myself a little better. When I was younger I thought there was a reason for everything. Actions have consequences. There were times though—too many times—when I couldn’t get to the reason why something happened and that bothered me and continued to bother me for years but when, whilst writing that book, I came up with the expression, “There are no reasons for unreasonable things,” suddenly so many things made sense; I had answers, not logical reasons why x and y happened.

  • markemr

    get a workspace you two ;)

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