Woven

Two novels published in the past few years have inspired this small experiment. I was intrigued by the manner in which George Saunders incorporated passages quoted from other texts into Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury, 2017). They provided background context to the central narrative. They also raised a question, through their multiple, often contradictory voices, regarding to what extent history is itself a fiction. The other novel was Jeremy Gavron’s Felix Culpa (Scribe, 2018), the entire narrative of which is composed of a patchwork of fragments stitched together from other texts. The novel as bricolage. In both cases, quoted passages from different sources follow one after the other. There is no additional commentary. They are creative exercises in curation.

In connecting the dots, traversing the gaps between fragments and stitching them together – a meaningful whole emerges.
— Nick Sousanis, Unflattening

The association between weaving and writing, between thread and text, between seamstress and artist, is a constant in the history of literature and art.
— Jorge Carrión, Bookshops

weaving is itself a model for storytelling’s integration of parts and materials into a new whole; it is a technology that creates containers and models complexity.
— Rebecca Solnit, Whose Story Is This?

It is no coincidence that our terms for fibre and fable intertwine. When we want to recount a story, we spin a yarn. If we deceive, we pull the wool over people’s eyes.
— Esther Rutter, ‘Making’

A meandering line sutures together the world in some new way, as though walking was sewing and sewing was telling a story and that story was your life.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

I passed my workdays making sense of the world for others, taking up fragments of sensation and information and piecing them together, stitching quilts from leftovers and rag-ends of the world’s fabric.
— James Sallis, Others of My Kind

A thread now most often means a line of conversation via e-mail or other electronic means, but thread must have been an even more compelling metaphor when most people witnessed or did the women’s work that is spinning. It is a mesmerising art, the spindle revolving below the strong thread that the fingers twist out of the mass of fiber held on an arm or a distaff. The gesture turns the cloudy mass of fiber into lines with which the world can be tied together. Likewise the spinning wheel turns, cyclical time revolving to draw out the linear time of a thread. The verb to spin first meant just this act of making, then evolved to mean anything turning rapidly, and then it came to mean telling a tale.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Women who spin, weave and knit are legend, from Homer’s Penelope, unravelling and reweaving a shroud as she waits for Odysseus’s return, to mythic Ariadne, saving Theseus in the Cretan labyrinth with her ball of yarn. In Greek mythology, the three Fates, the Moirai, hold the mother thread of life – Clotho spins it, her sister Lachesis measures it, and Atropos clips it short. In Norse mythology, the Norns, goddesses wielding shears and spindles, do likewise.
— Esther Rutter, ‘Making’

The world is made up of facts, he says in his book, facts that are atoms, the smallest unit into which spoken reality can be divided. Language weaves meaning together like an invisible needle, linking these facts by means of the thread of its logic.
— Luis Sagasti, Fireflies

Every history has more than one thread, each thread a story of division.
— Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Coupled, their interplay and overlap facilitate the emergence of new perspectives. Actively interweaving multiple strands of thought creates common ground. A richly dimensional tapestry from which to confront and take differences into account, and allow the complex to remain complex.
— Nick Sousanis, Unflattening

Tantra is the practice of extending, of stretching to make connections, of creating something from those connections. Tantra is the weaving of multiple threads and the extrication of one part from the whole.
— Nisha Ramayya, States of the Body Produced by Love

Stories are not only a sequence of things that happen, they are also – or they can be – patterns as well. The shape of a story-line can weave in and out in a shape that is attractive in an abstract way, which is aesthetically pleasing no matter what it means.
— Philip Pullman, Dæmon Voices

Like Ariadne’s thread allowing Theseus to journey into – and safely out of – the mythical labyrinth, a story means to lead the reader somewhere.
— Peter Turchi, A Muse and A Maze

To spin a yarn. To tell a story. You take something amorphous and lumpy and you order it. You twist it into something with a purpose.
— Nell Stevens, Bleaker House

a truth that is built, like all human truths, on a story woven of wishes, possibilities, and lies.
— Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs

I think of threads as parts that frame, as repetitions that enable memory, destruction and recreation, as continuities that loop and accrue meaning. Threads are moving bodies and the movements themselves, narratives and the processes of narrating.
— Nisha Ramayya, ‘Threads’

The reader is Theseus in the labyrinth, unspooling thread in order to find his way out of what he’s getting himself into.
— Peter Turchi, A Muse and A Maze

Theseus must use the ‘clewe of twyne’ that Ariadne gives him. The word ‘clewe’ derives from Old English cliwen or cleowen, meaning a rounded mass, or a ball of thread. Eventually it became our word ‘clue’. It lost its material significance, and retained only its metaphorical meaning. But still, there it is, hidden but present: the clewe is in the clue (and the clue is in the clewe). Every step towards solving a mystery, or a crime, or a puzzle, or the riddle of the self, is a length of yarn tossed us by the helping hand of Ariadne.
— Charlotte Higgins, Red Thread

A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like a thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

The labyrinth is about power and powerlessness, mastery and terror; it is also a coiled line, a thread, a narrative, a fabrication, a fiction.
— Charlotte Higgins, Red Thread

In this folding up of great distances to small space, the labyrinth resembles two other manmade things: a spool of thread and the words and lines and pages of a book.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

The scene that we weave and pull apart together is learned by heart, it dwells in memory; not simply a context, or an event, or an image, but a frame, a programme, a system of relationships and repetitions. In other words, the scene is not simply that which is created, but that which creates; not simply a part of a whole, but a part that comprises a whole.
— Nisha Ramayya, ‘Threads’

its recalling an understanding of pattern instead of a wound, something woven into me, a part of that composite I had become which was a fraction of what I might have been
— Jessie Greengrass, Sight

The web and the labyrinth are first cousins among metaphors. A woven web (whose threads can resemble a labyrinth) is made with the same skill, Minerva’s skill, required of the architect of intricate buildings, or poems.
— Charlotte Higgins, Red Thread

for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.
— Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49