Monday, January 9, 2012

The War between the Estates

An ongoing battle—a civil war, really—was waged within the crucible of your being.  The sides were as polarized as the Unionists and States’ Rights advocates of the American Civil War.  The two sides in your personal conflict were Truth and Fiction.  As the conflict progressed over the years, the toll was great, causing numerous splinter groups to appear.  Your observation of the inner wars had you alternating your allegiance from time to time as you came to review the positions and downstream implications for you, your future as a writer, the kinds of things you courted in your imagination, and to a great extent, the way things worked out.

How simple and civilized it would be to say you’d finally come to the point of accommodation and understanding where you took a centrist point of view, then developed a working rationale where you could tell the truth as you knew it and as well be as inventive of reality as you were able.  Simple, sane, and a bit boring as well,

In the most general of terms, Truth meant journalism so far as journalism means reporting of observable fact, opinion, and theory.  Truth also means the reporting and representation of the agendas, opinions, and theories of characters of your invention.  A certain segment of contemporary actors speak of the truth as seen by the fictional individuals they are cast to portray.  So far in the argument, truth is the fulcrum on which reporting and invention balance.  Readers often resent the misrepresentation of facts they understand to be true.  You join such readers in objecting to invented events in the biography, memoir, and autobiography of actual persons.

  On occasion, you have caught yourself while rereading a paragraph for these vagrant lines or, in fact anything about yourself that is not true to the best of your knowledge and which tends to embellish the importance of something you did, did not do, said or did not say.  This is particularly vital because of your growing cynicism at the way some resumes and curricula vitae expand menial tasks to uber-managerial functions.  Such tropes as “Responsible for keeping executive’s desks supplied with paper clips,” become “Hands-on assistance with executive memo and correspondence.”

Of course there are differing versions of “truth,” which makes fiction so appealing to you.  One notable example of this last came when you complained to the then chair of your department at USC that a particular student lacked sufficient skills to merit his continued presence in the program in which you taught.  Turns out you gave the chair the name of the wrong student, but the matter did not stop there because the individual you’d thought you were ratting out had complained to the chair that you always read your notes in a monotone.  You not only did not read said notes in a monotone, you improvised them from a 3 x 5 index card, and as well, the student had meant to indict another instructor, who did in fact read from his notes.  Thus in a wonderful way that seems too much apart of the story genome, the reader is pulled in to supply her or his truth.

Some of this makes “truth” academic, even moot.  Can it be known beyond a gradation of, say, eighty percent, if that much?  The writer of story should not, you argue, be judgmental, should present visions.  Leave it to the scientific observer to attempt to define events closer to a hundred percent than the storyteller’s eighty.

Any number of fine essayists are able to use the devices of irony and/or subtext to inform their narrative, but fiction seems to you a particular venue for such implication, wherein the reader can discern according to her own level of sophistication and experience.

One truth you believe you’ve stumbled upon, quite by accident is the truth that individuals, even your characters, are not static; they evolve, undergo changes both positive and not.  Readers evolve.  Story evolves.  Truths evolve.

More often than not, a reader is able to learn more about himself and the human species from rereading a particular story, perhaps from the perspective of having aged, having particular experiences, or having learned something about the behavior of physical and emotional matters in such laboratories as classrooms, or other stories than from the simple act of introspection or in any way reviewing his own life.

The internal civil war continues within you, epic battles being fought between Fiction and Truth.  In addition to devoting your life to having experiences with individuals in a social, relationship sense, you have devoted your life to understanding story, then relating it as best you are able, hoping as you do that it will reveal more of its truths to you and that you will recognize those truths when you see them.

Characters do not have to tell the truth, yours, or anyone else’s.  You have no such luxury.  


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