Thursday 1 April 2010

Leave It to Oprah

Readers get seriously exercised by memoirs that turn out to be fictional. There is furor and indignation. There are hurt feelings and betrayed trust. Frequently, writers chime in, bemoaning (a bit too loudly) the self-promotion of morally challenged authors and questionable motivations of sloppy publishing companies who don’t research their memoirists well enough. All are incensed that the eternally elusive mistress of literature – truth – has been violated.

Truth in the world of the arts, however, defies our usual categorical frameworks. Many literature lovers would say the most truthful things they have known exist between the covers of their favorite book. The ‘real life’, on the other hand, at times brims with falsehoods of so many shades that it can make you want to shut your eyes real tight, and stumble toward literature once again. It is the everyday facts of life that should be on trial, not literary fictions (please see Oatley, K., 1999, Why Fiction May be Twice as True as Fact in our archives).

Let us not judge fake memoirists because they have invented, created, imagined their characters. Let us leave the detective work of ‘realness’ and accompanying indignation to Oprah. Instead, as lovers of literature, we can take each word on each page and read it as any other word on any other page – looking for truths that transcend the persuasive apparitions brewed by our primate brains that we so casually call facts.

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