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This article is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

Metaphysics and Gossip: Notes Towards a Manifest for a Novel of the Future Raymond Tallis

The poet's function is to describe, not the thing that has happened, but a kind of thing that might happen, i.e., what is possible as being probable or necessary. The distinction between historian and poet… consists really in this, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of a graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.

                                                                                   (Aristotle, Poetics, 1451)

In my more honest moments, I am inclined to admit that I find only two things in the world truly fascinating: metaphysics and gossip. Everything between these two limits - between the general structure and meaning of the universe on the one hand and, on the other, who exactly went to bed with whom and what they did there - is of less compelling interest. Most of the things that are important to the material well-being of the human race lie in this in-between zone: how to cure pneumonia, how to overthrow tyrants, the structure of polymers, are equi-distant from metaphysics and gossip. And I take these things as seriously as anyone. But I am not concerned here with the serious and the important. I am concerned with the truly interesting; I am concerned with art; in particular with the art of fiction.

Somewhere in his massive and wonderful ...

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