Sunday, June 15, 2008

People Couldn't Believe What I'd Become

The pen is getting less and less mighty.

It's getting to the consistancy of the singing sword in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" ("WITCH-Craft! Wicked WITCH-craft...")

Soaking up a week's worth of NPR podcasts this weekend, I was listening to a piece on Fresh Air with Teri Gross and David Sedaris. Gross asked Sedaris about the recent focus on writers from "fact-checkers" who would prove exaggerations in the works of James Frey and Sedaris, which was an "indignation" because the works that were checked were supposed to be non-fiction.

A few notes about my development in this area:
  • I had a fiction "fact-checker" in Missouri. I didn't ask for one, but she wanted to read my work and she knew that at that time I was a virgin, so writing a love scene, for me, in my short stories, was a bit of a challenge. She would read my versions of these scenes and shake her head--"No, it wouldn't happen like that." So my stories started to be her versions of what making love was supposed to feel like. With that prospect, and my mother dying, I gave up on short fiction--what did I know about life in general to be able to write about it? Only recently my paradigm has started a 180 shift...having now had sex, I can verify that some of those sexual experiences can in fact be possible. Not all, but I had a good instinct on some of them. After six years of not trusting myself, I'm back to CREATING MY OWN REALITY IN THE WORLD OF FICTION. It's kind of nice to have my mind back, unparalyzed.
  • In college I took a summer writing class in the midst of all my literature/reading classes called Creative Non-Fiction. It was a level 300 course, mid-level, and I think I was a junior, but I wanted to push myself, be brave and WRITE already, dammit, and I loved the class. The art of creative non-fiction in that class dictated that it was still non-fiction if you captured the facts but captured them as you saw them. In other words, if you aren't completely dillusional, then you were okay to go. There would be readers who could say, "I read her piece and it doesn't happen that way," but they either hadn't written a piece themselves so their credability was lost, or they hadn't seen it through your eyes. But that is sometimes a deeper line of thinking than the masses of the reading public can deal with. We would just have to gauge it for ourselves. My belief that I couldn't gauge it for myself stopped me from writing that, made me apologetic, kept me from going deeper. "Who do you think you are?" as Garrison Keillor would say about the Midwest.
  • And, now, fact-checkers are asking all of the writers's the new witch-hunt and reality tv show.
  • I have the ability to believe in artistic license--the blood in movies is really ketchup, but for now I can believe it's blood sort of thing. I can support a good story. I liked James Frey's non-fiction. Hell, I liked Dave Egger's non-fiction that he was smart to place as a novel instead of a memoir about taking care of his brother, and the latest memoir of "What is the What?" of a Sudanese refugee that he placed as a novel so that no one would fact check the horrific events of a Sudanese boy's exodus. I personally think it's a frickin' shame that we have call a duck a dog in order to protect the duck, but that's the way to do it here in America. It should be a given--if you and a collection of about 10 other people witness a car accident at an intersection, there are going to be 11 different versions of the accident. But the truth has to be absolute to be called truth here.
  • Can't say that I have never encountered truth in fiction, though. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

So the new opportunities for writers are: become a writer of fiction, become a non-fiction writer and call your stuff fiction, become a non-fiction writer and ignore the fact-checkers, or...

Become a fact-checker.


I had a break-through on a short story that I have tried to write for 8 years now last night, and what was most smug about the story is that only I can write this story, because no one else I know would have experience of this kind. Still, the story has universal aspects. No one I know will believe what I have become--I used to roll the dice...

Castles on sand...time to find a rock on a hill and get rid of the bushel basket.

Time to write my dog. Just the facts, on the side, ma'am.


dkearns72 said...

This is off ur topic, but I wanted to mention something i liked in this entry. I cant really join u in loving NPR because it tends to drive me batshit bonkers. BUT-- I absolutely adore David Sedaris, and he is, without doubt, my favorite humorist of all time. So, I have to know how he answered Ms. Gross!

Jo Jardin said...

Sedaris gave Ms. Gross a specific example about a fact checker who kept playing phone tag with him.

"A painting costs as much as car insurance," he wrote as what he calls a throw-away line.

"So how much did the painting cost?"

And Sedaris told him how much, to which the fact-checker answered..."but, that's MORE than what the average person pays for car insurance."

And Sedaris said, "Okay, the average epileptic." And he hung up the phone.

The fact-checker calls back and says, "You'd have to change that to the average epileptic in Connecticut, because they have the highest insurance rate."

And Sedaris says, "Well, it wasn't really a story about THAT." So Sedaris said, "Okay, it costs as much as the average bumper pool table."

"Actually bumper pool tables are a lot less than you might think. You're going to have to change that..."

Long and short, says Sedaris, "I have told people how much I exaggerate...I EXAGGERATE about how much I exaggerate."


dkearns72 said...

its his exaggeration that makes him so funny!