Lurgis, a kind man who lets me know from time to time that someone reads me by posting a comment via the facilty below ( hint hint the the rest of you - come on, communicate with me!) sent me a link to this article about how Oprah Winfrey and all her book reading followers have been taken in by a book that wasn't true. He sent it with sympathy pointing out that 'its a shame that someone who works so hard to become a writer has so many obstacles to overcome - then people like this who just make stuff up and pass it off as real wind up making millions. '
Well, yes, its unfair that many talented writers don't get the reconition some 'chosen few' get and, perhaps its just too like the material I have to read for work, but I can't see the fascination of the recent raft books along the lines of 'I was poor/ abused/ lived in Ireland/ a cellar/ a prison cell and my life was bad/ worse/ pretty like my brother who published his book first. However, I'm not sure I agree that its a shame. After all I make stuff up too. Which is harder, to make it up and make it believable but obviously fiction or make it up and be able to convince that it is true? And would we ever be able to distinguish if publishers did not label things fiction and non fiction? And why do we care?
I suspect it is the consent to being decieved that makes the difference. There is a theory that we read fiction because it allows us to grapple and resolve the problems and worries of the world we live in at a safe external difference. If we think something is true then it turns out not to be does it then threaten out psychological wellbeing in someway? If you accept the first theory then the blurring between fiction and non-fiction would hinder the externalisation readers of fiction are said to use. One can see that being able to trust would make life scarier not safer. On the otherhand, one would also think that it would be very comforting to find out that the tale of abuse and drug use and crime Oprah found so horryfying was not true, to find out that the word is not that bad after all. However, I found it interesting when she said in the report linked above that "After turning the last page...You want to meet the man who lived to tell this tale".
Why is that? Becuase she has the same curiosity that made people want to look at the Bearded Woman on Coney island? I doubt it. I beleive it is becuase if there is one mortal out there who really did survive such an dreadful life then a reader can tell themselves - whether conciously or subconsciously- that whatever life throws at us won't be so bad and thus we don't have to be half the hero we view this man as being and we will still survive despite all the weaknesses we view in ourselves.
All of which theorising takes me where exactly? Just to the thought that as I write my novel I should perhaps be considering - how do my characters survive? What are their weaknesses they have to overcome? What techniques do they use to sidestep or overcome the obstacles in their way? What are the obstacles they face?
So thanks Lurgis for the inspiration to make a few more convincing lies up.
PS I had tea with Prince Charles today and he said that he had accepted an invitation to go in the next series of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
PPS Its harder than it looks, OK?