How important is the Truth?

Non-fiction has really become the equivalent of reality television. I'll admit, I enjoy reading a great story that I know (or at least think) happens to be true. And if I've been sold a fact and find it a fiction, I do feel somewhat betrayed. Still, the betrayal doesn't negate my enjoyment of what I read (if I did, in fact, find it enjoyable).

Still more, I must be a freak of nature - this is not news really - because I find no more enjoyment in true-life accounts than I do in, say, the works of the Bront√ęs. In fact, I often find that there's much more of truth in fiction than vice versa. It takes a deal more skill to peel such living characters from the ether as a Rochester or a Heathcliff and couch them in a living landscape.

To me, the difference between memoir/non-fiction and fiction/poetry (you know, I loves to lump) comes down to the difference between poetic reportage and the reportage of poesy. Namely, fiction takes a more intuitive marriage of personal experience and imagination. Because those living characters didn't REALLY come from the ether. They were culled from many places, people, lessons on human nature, suffering, longing, &c. And a bit from the ether, after all.


YET, the public (read: Oprah) clamours for THE REAL. Keep it real. Get real. Get fake, I say. It's more fun.

The publishing industry has been a bit naive about the whole thing. People lie to please, for personal gain, for fun, all the time. As the love of my life, Eddie Izzard, once said when we were kids, we lied our heads off! And it's true! What else can we expect in a culture that consistently rewards lying, which in turn programs our fragile spawn to lie?

This only underscores the difference between untruth and fiction, as fiction is its own, often purer truth. Or is it? POOF!

...

Also, Spitzer swallows.

That is all.

Comments

Intriguing post, you may find the words of Edward R. Murrow in 1958 interesting. He had a way with articulating himself in an amazing way when discussing the entertainment aspect of television and how it affects perceptions of truth.

There are definitely truths that can be derived from the stories and entertainments that are given through the entertainment medium, it's unfortunate that the modern person never really looks beyond the surface of the storyline to find those truths.

You can read the highlights of Edward Murrows speech at http://mywisegeneration.blogspot.com.

I enjoyed your thoughts.
Craig:

Thanks for reading. I enjoyed the Murrows speech.

Truths can be derived from popular media, though mostly on the level of metacriticism, imo. I don't watch much television, but what I've seen of its truth is mostly on the level of cartoonish mimesis (speaking of reality tv, sitcoms, sitdramas, e.g. Lost, CSI, Grey's Anatomy, etc.). It can be flattering to think of reality as being this pat. But ultimately, this is unsatisfying.

Of course, art that challenges its audience to involve itself in reflexive criticism is in great part ignored by mass culture as too weird (meaning, of course, too discursive, uncomfortable, unpleasant, &c.). Because seeing art as a transactional thing, beyond our cultural ideas about consumerism is scary! It's not a dollars and cents economy, if we look past the Barnes and Noble, of course, and, ay! therein lies the rub. Writers are more than capable of "selling out" (e.g. James Frey). But all we have to barter with in the economy of art is our worldview. In this country, particularly at this time (but really, in every time!), people cling tenaciously to their worldview (this I would apply equally to liberal and conservative-leaning folks). To offer one's worldview for consideration is to risk having it shattered. Most people do not have such psychological bravery. Which is not to pat myself on the back! - I can't be so brave ALL the time - no one can. But we can certainly aspire to bravery.

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