“Most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature.”
Last week I was presented with an essay, written by an A-level student from Oxfordshire, in which my novel had been used to explore the statement posed above. When I heard that she had written an essay on my book, I felt a surge of conflicting emotions, all of which resurfaced at once when she handed me a copy of the finished work: pride, anxiety, honour, fear, happiness and a nakedness that I haven’t felt since my undergraduate days, dancing to Baywatch’s ‘Save Me’ in one of Southampton’s various student clubs.
My particular interest in writing that examines my own work aside, the essay is fascinating reading. Broadly, its author looks at the question of metaphor from a number of angles: conceptually, socially, politically and theologically, examining quite how metaphor relates to these areas, and how the book demonstrates this. Reading the essay, I was reminded of a quote by Clive Barker articulating the innate relationship between fantastic fiction and metaphor.
“The underpinning of a lot of fantastic fiction – horror, science fiction, fantasy – is metaphysical. They’re the tales of the collective psyche, the fundamental metaphors of confrontation with things that may devour us or may offer us transcendence, and may be offering both in the same moment. At its best, fantastic fiction creates an immensely sophisticated, metaphorical language about very basic human issues.” Clive Barker
Mostly, I was impressed by how well the essay’s author has dissected my writing. It is incredibly strange and humbling to know that another person has sat down with the book and given such thought to my writing. For those of us who write in order to share (exorcise?) ideas and imagery personal to us, this is what it’s all about. It’s even more surreal to sit down myself with the essay and read back the very same ideas that helped shape the novel. (And a few more besides!) It has certainly given me food for thought.
I’d like to finish here with a quote from the essay, which I think captures the spirit of book and essay alike.