On page 155 of The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson reacts to a card from her mother which quotes the opening line of Joan Didion’s essay “The White Album”: We tell ourselves stories in order to live. “My poems didn’t tell stories. I became a poet in part because I didn’t want to tell stories. As far as I could tell, stories may enable us to live, but they also trap us, bring us spectacular pain. In their scramble to make sense of nonsensical things, they distort, codify, blame, aggrandize, restrict, omit, betray, mythologize, you name it.” As she later finds, though, Didion’s essay is really about the failure of narrative. Here’s a link to the full text of that essay, which is very interesting in relation to this book: http://www.dinkypage.com/147204/. How does the impulse to tell stories work and break down throughout The Red Parts?
We tell ourselves stories in order to live