February 15, 2012

falling into the rabbit hole . . . in real-time

There are facts (I suppose) but facts are often faceted and difficult to bring fully into focus. Most of the musings and rambling in this blog are as real as possible but I guess some of it is almost made up (or maybe more made from memory than reported as fact). I hope you are a curious enough child to follow where this goes.
“Story-truth,” Tim O’Brien wrote, “is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” He wrote that in a story called “Good Form,” in his collection The Things They Carried, a hybrid of memoir and fiction that was a touchstone for a generation of writers looking for new ways to tell stories. That book was published 20 years ago this month, and in February of 1992 I met Tim O’Brien at a reading at the Milwaukee Art Museum on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was so cold that day that water blown off the lake encased rows of trees by the shore in ice, and, depressed and 16 years old, that’s how I felt—as if a thin shell covered me, dulling the outside world, chilling me to the bone.

The essayist John D’Agata makes an O’Brienesque claim about the difference between story-truth and happening-truth in his new book The Lifespan of a Fact (Norton). “If a mirror were a sufficient means of handling human experience,” he writes, “I doubt that our species would have invented literature.” D’Agata spent seven years arguing with his fact-checker at the Believer, Jim Fingal, over an essay about a Las Vegas teen who leapt to his death from the tallest tower on the Strip. Lifespan dramatizes that debate.

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