Truth Stronger Than Fiction

NY Times piece by Rachel Donadio. [via Georganna].

As a “born again” reader of literary fiction (though it has to be said my reading list is stuffed with learned texts at the moment) I find this interesting. Outlets for fictional writing, not just books / novels, but literary journals too, are reporting that the market is dominated by “factual” work these days. Two observations – even the factual stuff has a bias to the long-form narrative they say, and given that it is indeed advertised as non-fiction, I hope it’s obvious that doesn’t make it factual in any sense of “truth” whatever its rhetorical qualities. The bummer with rhetorical quality is distinguishing between reasonable truths and speculative, conspiracy-theory, pseudo-scientific, life-style mumbo jumbo. Being market driven, as the article points out, this kind of narrative apparent non-fiction can appeal most easily to what people want to hear, rather than stuff that makes them personally uncomfortable. At least with fiction you know where you stand – if it appeals as an essentially true natural history, it’s probably because of some more intrinsic, aesthetic, instinctual qualities, rather than an explicit logic or reasoning.

Quality beats skin-deep “truth”.

5 thoughts on “Truth Stronger Than Fiction”

  1. maybe someone needs to give chris a heads-up on this trend, since he is so busily writing his novel.

    I was heartened to see you may agreee with me about “feel good” notions.

    Also since you have been discussing the efficacy of memes. I took a long road trip to our new (not completed) house in the california eastern sierras last week (june lake, near yosemite national park, should you be interested).

    I had on board, both my dog and some CD’s I bought, but hadn’t listened to. One was Aqualung, by Jethro Tull. I hadn’t heard this album since I was a pup.Ian Anderson’s anthem “Wind-up” played over my CD player and I was swept back to smoke filled basements and apartments.(yeah that mind altering kind of smoke) I remembered the blasphemy I felt as I listened to his criticism of religion. I wasn’t buying it at the time. I was too ensconced in my family’s and community’s appraisal of God.I was pretty scared to throw that baby out with the bathwater. But I was not too ashamed to at least listen. Today I find his view almost mild, since I have rejected any idea of God. I wonder how the meme of having listened to these words as a youngster has affected my thinking, if at all.

  2. they warned me that this was “the devil”. I guess I have succumbed.

    Wasn’t it the devil who succesfully tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

    I guess we should ask Joseph Cambell about this. Ooops he’s not still alive.

  3. Wow … I have a CD of my fave old hits in the car … three of the songs by Jethro Tull, including Aqualung and Thick as a Brick, and the other one will come to me … but not Wind Up.

    If you heard it as “blasphemy” then you’d already been infected by the other meme first – fair game 🙂

    Joe Campbell is someone I need to research, after Jean Cocteau, Pirsig and Dave Buchannan amongst others seem to really rate his thinking.

  4. of course I was infected. haven’t we all been infected by the ugly, revengeful, jealous, and anti-enlightenment god? We are all somewhat afraid of what could become of our exploration. And some truly bad things do come. I think you have expressed this thought when you say that not all evolution is positive or for the good.

    By the way the first lines of “Wind up” are “when I was young and they packed me off to school and they taught me how not to play the game. I didn’t mind if they groomed me for success, or if they said that I was just a fool. So I left there in the morning with their god tucked underneath my arm, their half assed smiles and their book of rules. And I asked this God a question and by way of firm reply he said, I’m not the kind you have to wind up on sunday.”

    This of course are the words of a very priviledged young man… Someone who has grown up in the luxury of the upper middle class. it seems that somehow all changes in the thinking of the masses comes from this kind of person.Some one who could have gone into lock-step with his upbringing but chose to step out of his league.

    My sister had a house in Eton, which she was renting because she was an ex-pat working for an airline. I visited her when she lived there. It was on the high street. One morning as I was jogging in my sweats I came upon a gaggle of young gents in their robes from the college. i was so impressed by their finery. I knew that these young men were apart from me…that they were destined for somethimg grander than anything I would ever achieve.

    It seems to me that unless everyone is able to aspire to the same….we will never be at peace. amen

  5. You are talking about a priviledged very few as you know when it comes to Eton, and I’m not sure what they have is necessarily what many should aspire too – but I get your freedom and egalitarian rights issue.

    “somehow all changes in the thinking of the masses comes from this kind of person” Not sure that’s true. People always have to be priviledged enough to communicate good new ideas, and maybe intellectuals (in some defining sense) may always have the better ideas. I think one thing that is changing with the WWW is that mass media is less dominated by the moneyed few – the long tail … (See my church of the interactive network link button) …

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