Lily Greenall is a fiction writer from the Isle of Lewis. She is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen. The subject of her thesis is the Devil figure in Scottish fiction. 

The Psychic as Storyteller

Kennedy's The Blue Book, Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and 'Madame Moon'

A.L. Kennedy’s The Blue Book is a fictional exploration of the lives and work of two professional psychics. Using a range of experimental narrative techniques, Kennedy is able to evoke the sense that a psychic’s job is to build a story from the minimal amount of information offered. Whether working with individuals or in front of a crowd, a psychic must draw information out of their audience using guesswork, invention and intuition. In The Blue Book, Kennedy makes a pervasive connection between this process and the acts of reading and writing a work of fiction. Working recently as an usher at a psychic show, I was struck by the connection between the role of the psychic and the role of the author. In order to perform, a psychic needs both their audience’s participation and their willingness to suspend disbelief, in much the same way as a novelist requires this from a reader. Psychics also use suggestion, throwing out an idea and allowing the audience to build upon it from their own experience, just as a writer can guide a reader through narrative strategies of implication and suggestion. Taking inspiration from The Blue Book and the American writer Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a powerful non-fiction account of loss and grieving, I developed my short story ‘Madame Moon’. In it I seek to explore, through fiction, the themes of loss, grief and the performative ritual aspects of these processes, which are seldom discussed in mainstream culture. This paper intends to demonstrate the relationship between my own experience and the process of writing this short story, and to examine some of the ways in which the practice of fiction, like the performance of a psychic, can give us permission to deal with traumatic emotions in a fictive but often emotionally enabling setting.