“I leave a lot out when I tell the truth.” This is the sentence that begins part two of Amy Hempel’s story “The Harvest.”
This simple, straight-forward, and beautifully written story speaks volumes about truth in narrative in regard to process and the craft of writing.
Best I can figure, this program is about exploring truth in narrative, a vast concept I don’t suspect anyone serious about the matter will likely conclude in their lifetime. An investigation that surely requires a never-ending historical exploration of both the role of narrative (Greek Mythology is a great place to start, but certainly not the only place) and the value of the concept of truth in societies; from the ancient past to the contemporary present. I suspect the link between thought and religion would also be a critical area of study, too, especially the shift from Neo-Platonism to Christianity, which radically altered where truth is located, literarily and literally. Greek moderation and their myths of earth dwelling gods gave way to excessive and wretched souls fighting for redemption and salvation from this earth due to dogmatic commandments from God (Why shouldn’t art be didactic or political? Are you sure our way of thinking isn’t still very Christian?). It’s hard to believe this major paradigm shift did not affect the concept of truth. This shift is directly related to the late nineteenth and twentieth century problems of Modernity by way of romanticism and transcendentalism, and most likely a host of other marked human periods (I’m just a part-time historian and philosopher). Exactly how all this might relate and offer a fleeting glimpse of truth in narrative, well, that’s the hard part and a fecund source for academic investigation.
Anyway, I find this story helpful on a specific level in regard to how it relates to the craft of the writer, meaning the skill-set and toolbox of a vocation. The art of such creations will, I suspect, be up for passionate debate and continually reinterpreted throughout time.
Here’s the PDF I scanned:
And here’s Amy reading both parts herself:
P.S. There’s also an interesting epigraph at the beginning of the collection that puts a powerful twist on the “a bird is just a bird” theory:
Q. What are all those horses
doing in your poems? I mean,
what do they stand for?
A. Horses. They stand for horses.
The way I stand for you.
– Vicki Hearne