Non-Fiction’s tether to the facts has always been frayed. And we’re just now getting nervous about it?
A federal judge in Montana has saved the non-fiction writer’s proverbial ass. (Not really!)
He has, for the foreseeable-future, allowed the authors of memoirs, essays and sundry ‘aboutnesses’ to ostensibly do what novelists and poets do all the time. That is, tell little fibs. That is, craft big ones through which we can see, but the gist of which we want to believe so desperately, we pretend there are no holes. That is, fabricate the truth. That is, construct a world in which the center may not hold. That is, present the narrator as the legendary hero he, or heroine she, always imagined him or herself to be.
Yes, we have Sam Haddon to thank for the barrage of mythic forays to come. The U.S. District Gavel-Swinger has thrown out the suit filed on behalf of a million (alright, four) non-fiction readers, a suit that may have required author, Greg Mortenson, to pay damages to those who understood his Three Cups of Tea bestseller to be entirely factual (and cough up $15 per disillusioned reader), a suit initially brought to bear by another writer, Jon Krakauer in Three Cups of Deceit… (Boo! Hiss! What a party-pooper!).
And so, where do we go from here?
I, for one, am not going to take this lying (down). To my credit I have an entire half of a graduate course with Natalie Kusz, and the topic of embellishing on the events and adventures of our lives has been raised every Tuesday. Tonight we’ll do it again. We’ll say that we can’t make stuff up. But what puts the Creative in the genre of Creative Non-Fiction is how we beautify the gory details of our fragmented days, weeks, months and years. Then, of course, someone will wrinkle his brow and it will be assumed that in streamlining the crap of our experience we, as writers, have made everything up. This is as it should be.
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