For years my friends have listened to me telling stories. Some of them are true – they don’t need embellishment. Many others have been reframed, rebooted, stolen, just made up out of thin air. They often can’t tell the difference, accepting the bollocks but doubting things that really happened. Often, they were witnesses at whatever it is I’m describing it, and they listen and think – yeah, sort of. When I’m dead, at my funeral one of them will say, “he never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, for that is as close as I get to a mantra.
So, what’s authentic and what’s not when it comes to Indifferent Voices? Some first readers thought the interviews had happened. That they were real – the characters. Which was nice. And they are. Mainly. I’ve met most of the people in the book, in some form or other, and heard every story. In a significant way, nothing is made up, and yet all of it is.
One of the stories from the bankers is a straight reproduction of what he wrote on Facebook one evening. Several of the stories come directly from people quoted in newspaper articles. Two of the longer stories are real. Real-ish. They actually happened to me. If, in part, only in my head. Many are ‘true stories’ I’ve been told over the years, re-positioned, channelled through other characters.
And of course, some of the voices are versions of me. Including one I definitely wouldn’t put my name to. Some of the other voices are of people I’ve met, as best as I can capture them. Some are composite, and some are impressionistic. And, let’s face it, some are sweeping caricatures. I have never met a bicycle thief. I stole that one. Then again, I really am quoting taxi drivers verbatim.
So, is it a pastiche of London? A sideways glance? Stage-managed didacticism and flummery? A pile of inauthentic poo? You decide. ‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’, as Eliot, who is the touchstone for the book, had it. That’s another one of my mantras. It’s not how we describe reality that counts, it’s how we re-package authenticity. Possibly…