Farrar, Straut and Giroux’s Work in Progress is always a source of interesting and thought-provoking reading material.
Lately I’ve been musing quite a bit about readers’ expectations and writers’ attitudes when it comes to fiction, truth and reality. So when I opened the WiP newsletter and found a post on the subject by Guillermo Erades, it felt like a piece of serendipity. And I know it’s nothing of the sort – a lot of writers find themselves musing inevitably about this – but indulge me. It’s Saturday, and I like my serendipity.
So, All True Stories are Fiction. In spite of my dislike of Hemingway, I agree with most of what Erades writes – from the urge to truly answer the half-evaded question, to this in particular:
The art of storytelling is largely about choosing what is to be conveyed and—most importantly—what is to be left out.
As I said, thought-provoking. It is one of those things that should be obvious, until you really think about it, and begin to think.
And then there is the conclusion. At first I wasn’t so very sure I share the author’s conclusion – perhaps because, on the face of it, it smacks a little of “write what you know”, and I have little patience with that. You cannot expect me to agree with an implication that, not having been an actor in Elizabethan London, I couldn’t possibly write my novel – can you? But on second thoughts, I believe the conclusion is a rhetorical flourish, meaning that truth is what counts, well beyond the question of what is real and what is fictional – and then I’m with Guillermo Erades.