What is truth?

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Here’s a clip you might enjoy. It harks back to that thorny old issue, the truth in non-fiction. It’s worth considering, if you haven’t seen it before.

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26 Comments on What is truth?

  1. NuminosityBeads
    November 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm (7 years ago)

    My local library is keeping the truth from me I guess since they won't let me view it because of adult content.
    Hmmm!
    xoxo Kim

    Reply
  2. Eryl
    November 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm (7 years ago)

    I might have to watch that several times, Elizabeth, thanks.

    Reply
  3. Marja
    November 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm (7 years ago)

    Can't view it at work and at home the kids used up the broadband. It's quite expensive here in NZ Not enough people. Will put it on my list

    Reply
  4. Kat_RN
    November 9, 2010 at 12:38 am (7 years ago)

    That was different. Sounds like something my old philosophy prof would enjoy.
    Kat

    Reply
  5. Amalia Pistilli Conrad
    November 9, 2010 at 3:34 am (7 years ago)

    Very funny.
    I just came back from the Iowa NonFiction conference where Dinty Moore was "debating" David Shields exactly on these points. In my mind, they were both right and wrong.
    Writing may be a contract with the reader, but it's not a legal document where you swear you'll tell the truth, and nothing but.
    Conversely, I cannot abide Shields' dislike of anything that has a personal narrative that's not disjunct and fragmentary. I read many memoirs that are structured like linear narratives and still wonderful; I read others that are more lyrical, more experimental, more fragmented, and still wonderful.
    The writer's contract is with his/her own conscience: it is the obligation to turn out a book that, as Kafka said (and Shields himself seems to like that quote) strives to be the "axe for the frozen sea within us"
    Anything else is just idle intellectual discussion.

    Reply
  6. beatrice De
    November 9, 2010 at 6:38 am (7 years ago)

    Nice and interesting collage in front.
    a little hello from Switzerland.

    Reply
  7. Mariana Soffer
    November 9, 2010 at 7:58 am (7 years ago)

    Sorry my dear friend but I was not able to see the clip, I do not know what it happend. Can you post the url next? Cause I am really into the subject, and how you think

    Reply
  8. Zuzana
    November 9, 2010 at 9:11 am (7 years ago)

    That was so confusing, I guess it shows off my intellectual limitations, hehe.;) I have to re-watch that, as the dialog escaped me once in a while.;) But I think I get the point.;)
    Have a lovely day dear Elisabeth,
    xo

    Reply
  9. Elisabeth
    November 9, 2010 at 10:25 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Numinosity, Eryl and Marja.

    For you two who can't view this Youtube yet, sorry, but it's worth it in the end.

    And for Eryl. I agree it bears some repeated viewing to catch up with all those amazing quotes. Not for the feint of heart.

    Reply
  10. Elisabeth
    November 9, 2010 at 10:27 am (7 years ago)

    Philosophical indeed, KatRN. I hope it made sense to you as well. I find it mind bogglingly amazing.

    Reply
  11. Elisabeth
    November 9, 2010 at 10:35 am (7 years ago)

    Amalia, I'd love to go to an Iowa non-fiction writing workshop one day. Lucky you to get there.

    These workshops sound wonderful and the debate you describe, also, sounds terrific.

    These arguments about the nature of non-fiction are endless.

    I agree with you, there's not a legal contract between writer and reader and yet some people treat it that way. Mostly I suspect those who don't write or those who are so obsessive they manage to convince themselves somehow that what they produce is not a construction.

    Constructions are fabrications, they do not include the lot, They can't.

    Omissions dictate the truth as much as inclusions.

    I have a love/hate relationship with these debates.I go into them with boxing gloves on, but come out exhausted.

    Thanks, Amalia.

    Reply
  12. Elisabeth
    November 9, 2010 at 10:38 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks Bestrice and Zuzana. This Youtube is fast even for a native English speaker, but maybe some of the energy rubs off despite the language.

    These endless arguments about nonfiction and the truth can seem impossible to fathom. They go on forever.

    Thanks you two.

    Reply
  13. Elisabeth
    November 9, 2010 at 10:45 am (7 years ago)

    Hi Mariana

    I've sent the link via email. I hope you can access it now.

    Reply
  14. Lyn
    November 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm (7 years ago)

    That's me!! I like the part where he asks "what the hell is that supposed to mean". …darned if I know..as long as it's good writing, that's good enough for me. Truth? We're here! Like the way you think…

    Reply
  15. Art Durkee
    November 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm (7 years ago)

    Amalia makes some terrific points.

    Something to remember: All art is artifice. There is nothing about creative writing that is not artifice, therefore artificial, there fiction. The "truth content" is still only going to be one eyewitness, and anyone who's ever worked with the police or in the courts will tell you that there can be 20 eyewitnesses to an event and you'll get 21 differing stories from them.

    There are two "social contracts" in play, it seems to me, in the discussion around truth in non-fiction. Both of them are psychologically rather than creatively driven.

    The first one is that people don't like feeling like they've been lied to, because they don't like to think they've been fooled, or that they CAN be fooled so easily. This is why condemnations of literary hoaxes can become so heated. People expect there to be a contract of trust between writer and reader, that the reader should be able to trust the writer—even when the narrative voice is that of an unreliable narrator.

    The second issue is that some people don't like discovering what they thought they knew was wrong. It's not that they don't like being fooled, it's that they don't like being wrong. Lots of people in this uncertain world demand utter certainty in their entertainment (which is not art, BTW) precisely because they want to locate some certainty amidst the chaos somewhere. You know? It's like people whose own lives are chaotic tend to be intolerant of chaos in their chosen forms of solace, be they literary or artistic. They want to be soothed, not challenged.

    It's my belief that the desire to feel soothed (which defines entertainment) rather than challenged (which is what great art does) is the reason so much crap is on TV, in books, etc. People won't tolerate much challenge, especially in turbulent times like ours.

    So they latch onto the "truth" as a certainty, when it never has been one.

    Reply
  16. Robert the Skeptic
    November 9, 2010 at 7:15 pm (7 years ago)

    I read far more non-fiction than fiction; it must be the scientist in me. But that non-fiction is about the Truth is a wholly inaccurate statement. I think about all the pseudo scientific garbage that is out there and that a vast majority of self-help non-fiction has no basis in science or any substantial research.

    Even history becomes "altered" through the bias of the authors. And were would one place all the religions texts? I personally would place them all in the fictional category.

    Reply
  17. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    November 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm (7 years ago)

    I’ve been confused by the term creative non-fiction. The video cleared up my questions and made me laugh at the same time. Thanks.

    Reply
  18. Friko
    November 9, 2010 at 11:52 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Elisabeth in Australia

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. It is close to midnight here and I'd better stop blogging. I have had such a buzzing high culture elitist day to today, I am fizzing like champagne.

    I can see that I will want to explore your writing and will probably have to follow you in the near future to get down to that.

    For the moment, just one question: your current post is categorised as creative non-fiction.
    I think I'll start exploring that term first.

    Reply
  19. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2010 at 9:06 am (7 years ago)

    Your skepticism is wonderful Robert. You too see through the notion of 'truth' in non-fiction. So much is based on perspective – where you're coming from both when you read and when you write.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  20. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2010 at 9:09 am (7 years ago)

    I'm glad this Youtube has helped clear up some of your confusion, Jane.

    I'm not sure that it hasn't added to mine, but I think it is useful nonetheless.

    Thanks, Jane.

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2010 at 9:13 am (7 years ago)

    Creative non-fiction is a vexed term, Friko. We argue about it constantly in blogland. An endless argument about truth in fact and fiction.

    Most of my writing I call creative non fiction or autobiographical fiction, whichever takes your fancy.

    See the Youtube link here, if you can. It might help you to understand better or add to your confusion. It's fascinating nevertheless.

    It's good to see you here, Friko.

    Reply
  22. Jim Murdoch
    November 12, 2010 at 10:44 am (7 years ago)

    I found this hard to follow. I would have preferred to see the text written down so that I could read it at my own pace. I’ve written so much about truth that I’m not so I’d have anything worth adding. What I did enjoy was the wee animation and was curious about how they did it so I investigated and ended up doing one of my own. It took hours to upload to YouTube but I’m quite pleased with it for a first effort. Anyway, here it is.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    November 12, 2010 at 11:53 am (7 years ago)

    I find this poem disturbing and haunting, especially the words: 'I cannot add meaning to loss', and the repeated refrain, 'you should leave now, it will do you no good to stay'.

    It's a pity it takes so long to work on these animations. I'd like to see another of your poems in this form, a longer one perhaps.

    As far as I can see/hear, it works. It stays with me even after only two viewings.

    You're right about the creative non-fiction Youtube, it runs at such a pace, it's nigh on impossible to catch all the words, just the gist of them and the contrast between the two personalities. I've listened to it several times now and can see and hear inklings of 'truth' on both sides. It's all to do with the extremes.

    Thanks, Jim. I'm glad it inspired you to work on something different for yourself.

    Reply
  24. Jim Murdoch
    November 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm (7 years ago)

    Lis, you have my book of poems, this was a long one. I will have another crack at it though. Sometimes I can't get my head into gear to write and look for something easy like this. I might also try animating a wee dialogue. I made this one using the online version but I also downloaded a copy onto my PC which looks as if it might have more scope. I was very pleased with the robot though. I always envisioned this poem spoken by some kind of automaton and this worked out well.

    Reply
  25. Kirk Jusko
    November 13, 2010 at 9:23 pm (7 years ago)

    I'll leave the philosophising about truth to others and just comment on the animation.

    The Walt Disney Company's got nothing to worry about.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    November 16, 2010 at 10:44 am (7 years ago)

    I know the animations not great, Kirk but the philosophizing has to be the point of this, as you say. And yes, I agree, in that regard Disney has nothing to worry about.

    Thanks, Kirk.

    Reply

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